Police step up holiday patrols

August 29, 1997


Staff Writer

As thousands of Labor Day revelers hit the roads, beaches and waterways this weekend, law enforcement agencies throughout the Tri-State area are bracing for the inevitable consequence of increased holiday traffic - accidents.

State police agencies are reaching into overtime accounts to combat the downside of the holiday. Lt. John Thierwechter, commander of the Chambersburg, Pa., barracks, said his troopers will concentrate on heavily traveled highways.

One program that has had success in the past is Operation Centipede, Thierwechter said. Beefed up patrols will use a string of radar cars and decoy cars to catch drivers who believe they are home free after passing a cruiser parked along the side of the road.


"It's for the people who think that it's safe and speeded back up," he said.

Heightened enforcement will be in place through Monday, Thierwechter said.

Thierwechter added that Pennsylvania state troopers once again will coordinate enforcement activities with the Maryland State Police on Interstate 81.

"We try to make a presence felt in both states - let them know that we're out there," he said.

The goal, according to police, is to maximize safety during what is traditionally one of the most dangerous times of the year.

Sgt. Laura Lu Herman, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Police, said 11 people - including two in Washington County - died in accidents in the state between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 last year. That figure was up from five traffic deaths over the Labor Day weekend in 1995.

More than 50 additional troopers will be patroling statewide over the weekend, Herman said.

Maryland troopers this year will focus on educating motorists about a new seat belt law that takes effect Oct. 1, Herman said. Beginning then, motorists who are not wearing their seat belts can be pulled over and ticketed even if they have not committed another offense.

"The seat belt is a primary focus for us this weekend - especially education," Herman said.

Besides avoiding tickets, Herman said, seat belts can save lives. She said police officials recorded 298 traffic deaths in the first half of 1997. About two-thirds - 199 - were not wearing their seat belts.

"Of those, in the opinion of the investigating trooper, 110 would have survived," she said.

The roads aren't the only potentially dangerous place. Officials also will be keeping an eye on popular waterways.

In West Virginia, for instance, there are more than 53,000 registered boats. Last year, officials recorded 28 boating accidents resulting in $117,460 damage and 27 injuries.

"It is unfortunate that what should be an enjoyable outing on the waterways can so often result in tragedy," said Col. James Fields, chief of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is not planning special enforcement, but officials urged extra caution. Patricia Manown, a spokeswoman for the agency, said water skiers, tubers, power boaters and fishermen among others will all be competing for space on the water this weekend.

"There's so much multiuse going on. They're all trying to get their last time on the water. Just be a little bit more careful because of the anticipated increase in boat traffic," she said.

The Herald-Mail Articles