About 11:26 p.m. Tuesday, California Highway Patrol dispatch broadcast a be-on-the-lookout call for a wrong-way driver traveling northbound on Highway 101 southbound. Two CHP officers responded with emergency lights and siren from Highway 101 southbound, just north of North Padaro Lane.
Within two minutes, CHP officers approached South Padaro Lane; they observed headlights approaching from the opposite direction. With emergency lights flashing, the officers flashed the spotlight back and forth in an attempt to stop the vehicle.
The wrong-way vehicle, a black Ford Explorer, continued past the officers at about 70 mph and continued traveling northbound in the southbound lanes.
The CHP officers exited the freeway at Santa Claus Lane and entered Highway 101 northbound. They attempted to get parallel with the Ford from the northbound side of the freeway. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department deputies were traveling southbound, north of the Ford. The sheriff’s department started a traffic break to alert and slow traffic traveling southbound of the freeway.
The deputies observed the Ford approach from the opposite direction, in the center divider, at 25 to 30 mph. The Ford swerved directly toward the deputies, who took evasive action and were able to avoid a traffic collision.
The Ford continued northbound in the southbound traffic lanes. Deputies were able to get into position to parallel the Ford from the northbound side of the freeway. The deputies said the Ford was traveling in excess of 80 mph.
The CHP officers stopped southbound traffic on the freeway, just north of Sheffield Drive. They then observed the Ford deliberately turn left and travel off the freeway. It came to rest in a ditch along the freeway shoulder, just south of the Evans Avenue on-ramp.
Deputies and officers stopped several vehicles traveling southbound on the freeway, which would have been in the direct path of the wrong-way driver.
They contacted the driver, identified as Nora Angelica Reyes of Santa Barbara. Officers observed obvious signs of intoxication and placed Reyes under arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Reyes drove the wrong way on the freeway for about five minutes and traveled about five miles before being caught. There were no injuries or fatalities.
When questioned, Reyes told officers she had been drinking alcohol at a friend’s house in Carpinteria earlier in the evening and was on her way home to Santa Barbara. Reyes was arrested for reckless driving while evading officers, wrong-way driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.
— James Richards is a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara Area.