11/22/06 — Troopers set sights on reckless drivers

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Troopers set sights on reckless drivers

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 22, 2006 1:46 PM

Expect plenty of blue lights along to the road to grandmother's house this Thanksgiving as state highway patrol officers across the country are expected to be out in full force.

"(In North Carolina) all available men are going to be used," said Sgt. Joel Siles, N.C. Highway Patrol traffic safety information officer in Fayettville. "They'll be on all roads looking for aggressive drivers, drunken drivers and speeders. It's not a particularly bad time of year, but it is a heavily traveled time of year."

Locally, in Wayne County, the Sheriff's Department also will have deputies out patrolling the roads.

"We're going to have our regulars out there, plus a few extra to work the highways," Maj. Billy Anderson said.

And, he added, with all the drivers on the road in today's inclement weather, they are concerned about a possible increase in traffic accidents.

"People should be careful, pay attention and keep their speed down," Anderson said. "You never know when you might run into a wet spot of the road."

But it's not just in North Carolina that law enforcement officials are targeting holiday drivers.

State troopers also are taking part in what officials are calling the largest coordinated effort of its kind, with troopers from all eight states of Interstate 40 -- California to North Carolina -- posted every 10 miles of the 2,547-mile east-west corridor.

Called I-40 Care Across America, the goal is to reduce the number of fatalities during the busiest travel period. The states participating in the program are California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.

States coordinating efforts during high-volume travel periods is nothing new, but Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Pete Norwood said the operation is the first time this many states have worked together on trying to reduce traffic fatalities.

"I don't think you can get any longer than 2,500 miles," said Norwood, a spokesman for Operation Care, a national highway patrol effort to reduce interstate travel accidents and incidents, which organized the I-40 program. "Every 10 miles, you're going to see a trooper out there."

Bill Sadler, a spokesman for Arkansas State Police, said there will be at least 28 Arkansas state troopers posted along I-40 during the operation, which begins Wednesday afternoon and ends early Thursday morning.

Sadler said troopers will be watching for violations ranging from drunk driving to speeding, but said officials hope the beefed up presence will encourage safer driving habits.

"It will, if nothing else, remind motorists that law enforcement is present to encourage these drivers to correct themselves," Sadler said.

In Tennessee, at least 90 troopers are expected to participate in the program and Tennessee Highway Patrol Spokesman Mike Browning said the state hopes the operation will help cut down on the number of holiday fatalities. Last year, there were 17 fatalities on the state's highways, Browning said.

Sgt. Harold Sanders of the Arizona Department of Public Safety said cooperation with other departments during high-traffic periods has helped maintain consistent enforcement, especially for drivers who are crossing state lines.