CLAYSVILLE – If you are one of the more than 36 million travelers who are expected to take to the highway for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, police from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are advising you to be mindful behind the wheel.
Pennsylvania State Police were joined by West Virginia State Police and the Ohio Highway Patrol Wednesday at the Claysville rest area on Interstate 70 eastbound as part of the Combined Accident Reduction Effort. The three agencies, along with other law enforcement, state transportation agencies and AAA East Central traditionally get together on the Wednesday before Memorial Day each year to get kick off the multistate summer driving enforcement effort.
“Our efforts focus on highways to reduce the number of fatal and injury accidents,” said Maj. George Kuzilla, commander of Pennsylvania State Police Area III, which includes Troop B in Washington and other troops in Western Pennsylvania. “There are three leading causes of crashes – drivers under the influence of alcohol, distracted drivers and aggressive drivers.”
Kuzilla said troopers will be looking for these types of drivers over the holiday weekend. During last year’s Memorial Day weekend, Kuzilla said state police investigated 760 crashes. Twelve people were killed. Of those 760 crashes, 245 involved drunken drivers.
State police will be conducting both checkpoints and roving patrols this weekend looking for intoxicated drivers.
In Ohio, police also will be looking to reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, said Maj. John H. Bistor of the state’s highway patrol. Last year, eight of that state’s 15 fatal crashes involved alcohol.
Capt. James Merrill of the West Virginia State Police said statistics show the number of injuries and fatal collisions go down on the weekends the CARE enforcement is in effect.
“It is a shame we can’t do it daily,” Merrill said. “After special enforcement weekends, the number of accidents with injuries or deaths starts to spike again.”
State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane Township, said he urges drivers to exhibit patience behind the wheel and avoid the drunken, distracted and aggressive driving that could get an innocent person killed.
“A lot of times it is not the perpetrator who is killed in these crashes,” Neuman said.
He also said Pennsylvania does not have adequate legislation to allow police to effectively deal with distracted drivers and called on his fellow lawmakers to make laws that will help police deal with these types of motorists.
J.J. Miller, AAA safety adviser, agreed.
“Behavior patters of people definitely have to change,” Miller said. “Holiday travel this weekend is expected to hit a new post-recession high. It is expected to be the highest travel time since 2000.
“Memorial Day weekend has also been the most deadly three-day holiday travel weekend,” she added. “Plan ahead and make safety a priority.”