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Deputy puts cruiser in harm's way to stop wrong-way, 94-year-old driver on Narrows Bridge

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Tacoma Narrows Bridge (file photo)

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Pierce County deputy made a harrowing trip against oncoming traffic on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge earlier this week after seeing a wrong-way driver.

The deputy swerved across lanes of traffic to protect other drivers, then put his cruiser in the path of the wrong-way driver to stop him.

It worked. No one was hurt. The driver, a 94-year-old Poulsbo man, and his 88-year-old wife were taken home after the car keys were seized.

The incident began at 1:40 p.m. Tuesday, The deputy was on state Route 16 in Gig Harbor and was approaching the bridge's toll booth.

Cars in front of him were slamming on their brakes and swerving.

He saw a gold Toyota Camry coming toward him. The car was headed west in the eastbound lanes.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department says the deputy turned on his emergency lights and began weaving across all three lanes of traffic to slow the cars behind him.

The driver of the Camry cut to the right, crossed three lanes and got into the HOV lane. Then he sped up.

The deputy put his car in the HOV lane and stopped. As other drivers swerved and sped by, the Camry stopped a few feet from the cruiser.

The deputy told the driver to turn off the car and hand him the keys.

The Sheriff's Department said the driver appeared confused and couldn't tell the deputy where he was or how he got there.

The deputy drove the Camry away, and the man and woman were taken for medical evaluation. They were cleared by a firefighter.

Deputies said the couple didn't seem to understand the severity of going the wrong way on the bridge or the danger to themselves and others.

The driver told the deputies that he had thought the cars behind him were going too fast. He turned onto the freeway entrance to get away from them.

The 94-year-old man was cited for reckless driving. Deputies made arrangements for family members to pick the Camry up.

The Sheriff's Department says deputies believe the man was driving on Jackson Street in Tacoma, turned down the highway off-ramp and entered eastbound traffic, driving the wrong way on the bridge in the far left lane. He began to change lanes as he approached the jersey barriers near the toll booth in Gig Harbor.

The Sheriff's Department says people who worry about the driving of elderly relatives should talk to them. The AARP has an online seminar, "We Need to Talk," that gives information on how to assess an elderly relative's driving skills and provides tools on how to have the conversation.

You can access that online seminar here.