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Police are stepping up patrols over holidays

December 18, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Warm weather and a record number of travelers might conspire against some people's visions of dashing through the snow over the next two weeks.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department, Maryland State Police and Hagerstown Police Department said they will be staffing extra patrols over the next two weeks.

Police are expecting a large number of motorists next weekend, Maryland State Police Department Sgt. S. Wallace said.

"It will be increased volume, of course," Wallace said.

She said factors like weather can affect congestion on roads.

The National Weather Service predicted on its Web site Sunday that the Christmas Eve high temperature would be near 42 degrees. AccuWeather's outlook for a white Christmas was more optimistic, with a chance of a wintry mix arriving Sunday.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is projecting 65 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holidays. That includes 22 percent of Marylanders, a press release states.

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Wallace and Sheriff's Department Lt. Tim Baker said their departments are planning to step up patrols.

"Leave early, (leave) plenty of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. Pay attention. No talking on the cell phone," Wallace advised.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that speeding nearly triples the risk of crashing, and distracted driving nearly doubles the risk of an accident, a press release states. Aggressive driving more than doubles the risk, according to the release.

Hagerstown Police Sgt. Mark Renner said he is not sure if the department is planning extra patrols for Christmas weekend, but extra officers will be out on New Year's Eve. In the city, traffic congestion is not much of an issue, but officers will be watching for drunken drivers, Renner said.

"You need to wear your seat belt. Take your time. You'll get there eventually, even though traffic may be heavy," Renner said. "And, no drinking."

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