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Police prepare for unsafe holiday drivers

September 07, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

With warm and sunny conditions expected for the Labor Day weekend, area police are hoping motorists will take it easy on Tri-State area highways.

But in case they don't, police want drivers to know they will be out in force.

State police in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania plan to be ready with increased visibility and determination to crack down on reckless and drunken driving.

And a record numbers of travelers are predicted to be on the highways this holiday weekend.

High gasoline prices - as high as $1.22 a gallon in some areas - aren't expected to dissuade people from their plans on this traditional final official weekend of the summer.

By contrast, last year on Labor Day, gas was selling for under a buck a gallon.

Operation CARE, which stands for Combined Accident Reduction Effort, is the name given to the extra effort to save lives, especially on high-volume holiday weekends.

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West Virginia State Police in Martinsburg aren't calling in any extra troopers for the weekend, mainly because they don't have that many "spares," according to Trooper E.D. Anderson.

But the weekend shifts will concentrate on traffic patrols whenever possible, especially around the congested construction zones between Martinsburg and Falling Waters in both the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 81.

In the traveler's favor, the West Virginia Department of Highways opened up both lanes north and south on I-81 through those construction zones at midday Friday.

"And all lanes will stay open through Monday especially for the holiday travelers," said Ralph Calhoun, lead state inspector on that construction job designed to widen the interstate to six lanes.

The death toll to date on Washington County roads is down from that of the same time last year and nearly half from that of the year before.

So far in 1999, 13 people have been killed in traffic accidents on Washington County roads, according to Maryland State Police figures.

That compares with 17 fatalities during the same period in 1998 and 24 deaths through Labor Day 1997.

In Frederick County, 21 highway deaths have been recorded so far this year, up from 18 in 1998 and 17 in 1997, according to state police figures.

Last year, six people died on Maryland highways during the Labor Day weekend.

Lt. Bruce E. Smith, commander of the Maryland State Police barracks at Hagerstown, said troopers in Washington County will increase routine patrol efforts to ensure that motorists travel safely.

Troopers will target speeders, aggressive drivers, drunken and drugged drivers as well as violators of the seat-belt and child-safety-seat laws.

Efforts to reach Cpl. Bernard Stanalonis at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Chambersburg for their specific holiday enforcement plans were unsuccessful.

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