Kingsport woman, 66, faces third DUI after going wrong way on I-81

Rain Smith • Oct 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — A 66-year-old Kingsport woman was arrested Saturday night after driving the wrong way on Interstate 81 — narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with other motorists.

According to an incident report from the Kingsport Police Department, Central Dispatch began receiving numerous calls about a suspected drunken driver shortly before 7:30 p.m. A KPD officer responded to the interstate, locating the car northbound near mile marker 59.

The officer’s report states the automobile, a 2000 Lincoln Town Car, was traveling about 35 or 40 mph. It veered into the grass median and proceeded into oncoming southbound traffic.

Traffic was heavy, according to the officer, and three cars had to make “evasive/erratic maneuvers to avoid a head-on collision.”

The officer said he pulled his cruiser in front of the car to prevent it from traveling any farther. The female driver appeared to be “nodding” and would not respond to commands to exit her vehicle.

The driver had to be physically removed from her car by the officer and carried to the police cruiser. The officer said she smelled of alcohol and responded to questioning with “inaudible mumbles.”

The woman was identified as Phyllis Bledsoe Starnes, 66, of 1128 Greenleaf Drive, Kingsport. Police said she did not know the date, time, city where she was driving, or what had just occurred.

Police said inside Starnes’ car they found an empty prescription bottle and empty bottle of vodka. A check of her record revealed two previous DUI convictions.

Starnes was arrested and charged with two counts of felony reckless endangerment and third offense DUI.

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