Citations issued against Route 222 wrong-way driver

A Sinking Spring woman who drove as many as 7 miles in the wrong direction of Route 222 last month, forcing a tractor-trailer driver to swerve off the road and roll his truck, will face citations but not criminal charges. Muhlenberg Township police have cited Christine Hockenberry, 49, for careless driving, driving on the wrong side of the highway and speeding. The summary citations were mailed this month, according to court records, but Hockenberry has not entered a plea. Muhlenberg police Sgt. Joel Marino, community services officer, declined to comment on the decision to bring only summary traffic citations in the Oct. 24 incident. According to police and witnesses: As Hockenberry drove north in the passing lane of southbound Route 222 near the Route 61 interchange about 1:15 p.m., several vehicles swerved to avoid a head-on collision with her small SUV. An off-duty West Reading police officer, Sgt. Joseph M. Brown, was driving on the opposite side of the highway when witnessed the wrong-way driver and dialed 9-1-1. As the phone at the dispatch center was still ringing, the SUV driver proceeded despite an oncoming tractor-trailer. “I saw the tractor-trailer coming toward her and at the last minute the tractor-trailer swerved into the median to lay over his truck to avoid a head-on crash,” Brown told the Reading Eagle two days later. The rig rolled across the median, coming to rest near the northbound passing lane just as Brown was going by. Brown feared the driver was seriously injured, but he saw other motorists rushing to help him, so he continued to drive parallel to the SUV as it proceeded in the wrong direction. “I was just concerned she was going to hurt more people as she continued,” Brown said, “because she was just in the mode where she wasn’t going to stop and everyone needed to get out of her way.” Brown said the SUV driver continued at about 60 mph in the wrong direction the entire stretch of the expressway, formerly known as the Road to Nowhere, before exiting on Allentown Pike, which is business Route 222, in Ontelaunee Township. She stopped at the exit ramp for Allentown Pike, and, while still in the wrong lane, was blocked by vehicles coming the other way. After some drivers moved over, she sped off, heading south toward Temple, but this time in the proper lane. Brown, who is president of the Berks County Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, followed the SUV to the area of Walmart when he saw a Muhlenberg police car coming in the opposite direction. Marino, who was driving the police car, said he saw Brown flashing his lights, beeping his horn and pointing toward the SUV. Marino stopped Hockenberry’s vehicle at the Walmart entrance. The tractor-trailer driver, John Kovach, 50, address unavailable, was taken to Reading Hospital for treatment. Marino said 9-1-1 calls indicated Hockenberry was driving on the wrong side of the highway as far south as the Spring Ridge Drive/Van Reed Road and Broadcasting Road interchanges in Spring Township, about 7 miles away. It was unclear why Hockenberry continued to drive for so long after it should have been clear she was going the wrong way. According to court records, Hockenberry has a criminal case pending in Lancaster County Court in a hit-and-run incident. East Hempfield Township police charged her in May with causing an accident involving damage, careless driving, following too closely and failing to stop and give information or render aid. Details of that incident were unavailable.

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