Interstate 70 crackdown results in fewer crashes

June 11, 2014
Heavy truck traffic is shown on Interstate 70 near the Kammerer exit, just west of Bentleyville, in this file photo. A month-long crackdown on speeding and aggressive driving on I-70 paid off for state police in a dramatic drop in the number of traffic crashes. - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

When state police and Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone announced that troopers would be cracking down on speeding on Interstate 70 during May, they were hoping to reduce the number of crashes on the highway.

And they got their wish.

“The best stat from the month of May was the reduction in crashes,” said state police Lt. Douglas Bartoe. “We had seven crashes in the area compared to the monthly average of 25.”

The area targeted for the increased enforcement effort was I-70 from the north junction with Interstate 79 to Belle Vernon. Bartoe, patrol section supervisor for Troop B that covers Washington and Greene counties, as well as Allegheny, Fayette and a portion of Westmoreland, said police were seeing not only an increase in crashes, but more traffic and aggressive drivers.

“It is a positive surprise,” Bartoe said Wednesday. “We were operating different programs throughout the month. But when you see results like that, you want to try to maintain it.”

Vittone, who regularly travels the highway, encouraged the enforcement effort after seeing more aggressive drivers, especially those operating trucks.

“While it cannot be proven the enforcement effort saved anyone’s life, I find it extremely encouraging that the number of vehicle collisions was dramatically reduced in May,” he said. “That is a dangerous stretch of road. There have been a lot of wrecks, and some bad ones.”

Vittone said he has noticed changes in the behavior of drivers during his travels on the highway.

“I’ve not had to write down as many license numbers,” he added. “Safe driving practices are the best way to avoid an accident.”

During the enforcement period, state police issued 479 citations and gave 375 warnings to drivers. Bartoe said most of the citations were for speeding. Troopers also inspected 350 commercial vehicles.

While state police will continue enforcement on I-70, especially as work is set to begin in two new construction zones, Bartoe said troopers will also look to crack down in other areas.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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