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Travelers still expected

September 02, 2005|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

erinc@herald-mail.com

Rising gas prices are not expected to keep travelers off roads Labor Day weekend, AAA spokeswoman Bevi Norris said Thursday.

Norris said 34.5 million people nationwide will travel 50 miles or more from their homes this weekend, a nearly 1 percent increase from the 34.2 million who traveled last year. Nearly 30 million of those will drive, she said.

"We've seen record high gas prices, an early start to the hurricane season and terror attacks in London, but Americans have traveled nonetheless," AAA Senior Vice President Jim Lehman said in a release.

Local law enforcement agencies are calling in extra manpower for the weekend, hoping added presence will reduce possible problems for holiday travelers.

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Maryland State Police Sgt. Robert Reid said most Hagerstown barrack troopers' holiday leave was canceled this year for the first time he can recall.

"We'll definitely have a lot of extra troopers on the road this holiday weekend," he said.

Troopers will be looking for aggressive drivers, intoxicated drivers and speeders, Reid said.

He said troopers will most likely be stopping speeders in teams, hoping to slow people down.

"We want to create a high visibility, and this is statewide, not just in this county," Reid said. "People traveling through Maryland this weekend will see a lot of state police vehicles."

The Washington County Sheriff's Office will have additional deputies patrolling for aggressive and intoxicated drivers, said Lt. Randy Wilkinson. In addition, he said deputies will patrol popular shopping centers like Prime Outlets at Hagerstown and Valley Mall in Hagerstown.

"We know we have an increased call volume on holidays," Wilkinson said. "And some are not only traffic related."

Hagerstown Police Department officers will conduct a sobriety checkpoint Saturday to reduce the number of drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol, said Sgt. Johnny Murray. The checkpoint will be conducted from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., he said.

While there will be more officers patrolling and more travelers on the road than last year, AAA said the increase in travelers is smaller than in the last several holiday weekends.

"Both record-high gas prices and the increasing number of school systems that start before Labor Day play a part in this reduced increase," Lehman said.

Lt. Paul Hanyok, with the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said he expects high gas prices to keep travelers away from the Potomac River.

Decreased activity will not significantly alter the number of police patrolling the river in boats, Hanyok said. About 15 officers will be looking for boaters not wearing life jackets, drinking while driving a boat and violating noise regulations, he said.




Gas prices rise in area


Prices Thursday for a gallon of regular gasoline:

$2.95

Leitersburg Liberty

21322 Leitersburg Pike, Hagerstown

$2.99

May's Service Station

8708 Sharpsburg Pike, Fairplay

$2.99

Sharpsburg Pike Sunoco

1450 S. Potomac Street, Hagerstown

$3.29

Frederick Street Gas & Deli

717 Frederick Street, Hagerstown

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