Driving under the influence a common thread in many wrong-way crashes

Both the wrong-way driver, who had just entered the northbound lanes of Ga. 400 at Lenox Road going southbound, and the driver of the vehicle she slammed head-on into, were killed in Wednesday's wreck.

"It appears alcohol may have been a factor in this accident," Atlanta police spokeswoman Kim Jones said.

Between 2004 and 2010, 22 people died in wrong-way crashes in metro Atlanta, and a study by the state Department of Transportation found that in most cases, drivers were impaired by alcohol or drugs, or had failed to take prescription medication.

One of metro Atlanta's most infamous wrong-way driver incidents happened 21 years ago, on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

Clinton Leigh Hunter, a 33-year-old mechanic from Alabama, left an adult entertainment club on Northside Drive that Friday afternoon, got behind the wheel of his pickup truck and entered the southbound lanes of I-75 headed northbound.

Police said Hunter caused at least nine accidents in a 10-mile stretch before his truck collided with a southbound car driven by Michael E. Kirby, a 29-year-old Army recruiter. Kirby, who was taking his wife and three children to Disney World for the holiday weekend, was killed.

Hunter, whose blood-alcohol content was .20 at the time of the accident, later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, DUI, and reckless driving and was sentenced to 25 years in prison and 10 years of probation.

Alcohol was also suspected as a contributing factor in a wrong-way crash on I-20 nine months ago that killed a Doraville police detective.

Cpl. Robert Wilson was responding to a home invasion in progress call last Nov. 14 when his Ford Edge was hit head-on by a Jeep Laredo that was headed east in the westbound lanes of I-20 near Wesley Chapel Road.

Police said the driver of the Laredo, Gene Jones, 39, of Dunwoody, had a blood alcohol level of .14, nearly twice the legal limit. Jones is awaiting trial on vehicular homicide, DUI and reckless driving charges.

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