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Police prepare for Memorial Day weekend traffic

May 25, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Drivers braving the roads this weekend likely will encounter high gas prices, sultry temperatures and cries from back-seat passengers, asking, "Are we there yet?"

Lt. Rick Narron, barrack commander for the Maryland State Police in Hagerstown, said he is expecting heavy traffic this weekend as the Memorial Day holiday ushers in summer's unofficial start.

For Narron, three-day weekends drive home the importance of buckling up and driving carefully.

"It kind of brings everyone back to the perspective to drive carefully," Narron said.

AccuWeather meteorologist Chuck Caracozza said the weekend likely will be a bit warmer than normal, with temperatures today hitting about 88 degrees. He predicted high temperatures in the low 80s for the rest of the weekend, with spotty showers.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Lt. Tim Baker said speeding and alcohol are two of the major causes of serious crashes. He said the weekend's heavier-than-normal traffic likely won't affect county roads.

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Baker and Narron said their agencies both plan to conduct checkpoints this weekend to spot intoxicated drivers. Narron said state police will conduct a seat belt checkpoint sometime this month.

Some troopers will work overtime shifts. They will focus on aggressive drivers and speeders, but respond to other calls as needed, Narron said.

"We try to emphasize to the motoring public and passengers as well that safety belts save lives," Narron said. "We're trying to help you save your life and help you reduce the seriousness of your injuries should you be involved in a collision."

Trooper Kyle George said state police recently have responded to an unusual number of accidents that caused ejections. Victims of those accidents would not have been as badly hurt, if they were wearing their seat belts, he said.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration surveys show more than 90 percent of motorists in Maryland use their seat belts. The state's compliance rate is one of the highest in the country, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts that record-high, $3-plus gas prices won't deter people from taking to the roads. About 720,000 Marylanders will travel 50 miles or more from their homes, it estimates.

"The volume of traffic is heavy through Washington County on any weekend, but most definitely on the Memorial Day weekend," Narron said.

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