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Police plan to increase patrols through holidays

December 16, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Twenty-five people have been killed in highway accidents in Washington County so far in 2003, the most recent being early Monday near Big Pool, said 1st Sgt. Rick Narron of the Maryland State Police.

There were 26 deaths last year. There are 15 days left in this year.

This Friday, Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention month will officially get under way in Washington County. All area police agencies are increasing patrols through the holidays, concentrating on aggressive drivers, seat belt compliance, speed and alcohol use.

"We are really trying to find out why we have had so many fatalities in the past few years," said Andrea Harris, director of the Washington County Community Traffic Safety program. "Because we're at a loss, a special task force has been put together."

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The fatal accidents haven't occurred on the same stretch of road, at the same time of day or even during adverse weather conditions, Harris said.

The only common denominators have been impaired driving, which was involved in at least 25 percent of the fatalities and noncompliance with seat belt laws, which was involved in 50 percent of the fatal accidents.

At least one sobriety checkpoint will be scheduled in Washington County between now and Jan. 4, 2004, Harris said.

"Law enforcement will be giving no warnings," she said.

There also have been three pedestrian road deaths so far in 2003.

Harris said teaching youngsters pedestrian safety is emphasized heavily in the curriculum at Children's Village of Washington County. Through a hands-on mini car exercise on the streets of the village, all second-graders in Washington County learn how responsible behavior by walkers can affect personal safety.

The traffic safety group recently purchased a battery-powered mini car to add to the fleet of cars available for use by students at Children's Village. Harris said the money came from a Maryland Department of Transportation/Highway Safety Office grant.

For more information on this year's safety campaign, visit the Web site at nhtsa.cot.gov.

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