Police cracking down on I-79

Speeding, aggressive drivers to be targeted by special enforcement

July 7, 2014
Drivers are being made aware of their speed by two trailers set about a mile apart on Interstate 79 between Canonsburg and the Allegheny County line. If the drivers don’t temper their speed, they risk being nabbed in a crackdown by state police. - Photo provided by PennDOT

After conducting an enforcement campaign in May on Interstate 70 east of Washington as part of an effort to reduce serious crashes, state police and the state Department of Transportation were pleasantly surprised by the dramatic decline in the number of wrecks.

Now representatives of the two agencies are hoping for a similar outcome on Interstate 79 between Canonsburg and the Allegheny County line. The number of crashes on I-70 east of Washington dropped from the monthly average of 25 to just seven during May’s enforcement.

Operation Sneak Peek was kicked off Monday as part of an effort to encourage drivers to slow down on I-79. Two PennDOT speed trailers, set up about a mile apart, will be used to alert drivers to their speeds. Drivers will pass the speed trailers before entering the enforcement area being monitored by troopers.

“It is an opportunity to educate motorists,” said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT’s District 12, which includes Washington and Greene counties. “They will see their speeds not just once, but twice. Then they will go into the radar area, and if they are speeding they will be issued a citation.”

State police Lt. Douglas Bartoe, patrol section commander for Troop B, said the initiative in May was a success.

“The area between Canonsburg and the county line on I-79 is where we have the second highest number of crashes,” Bartoe said, noting the highest number of wrecks is on the stretch of I-70 targeted in the May enforcement.

“We want to lessen the number of crashes in this area of I-79 and make them less severe,” Bartoe said. “And these crashes tend to cause traffic tie-ups even if one lane of traffic is still open.”

Bartoe is not sure why there are so many wrecks. He said there have been dozens of crashes, both minor and major, along that stretch this year.

”With the developments in Canonsburg and Southpointe, there are more vehicles,” the lieutenant added. “I don’t know if it is people in a hurry to get to work or Pittsburgh.”

“The road only has one curve in that area,” Bartoe said. “Maybe drivers are not being patient.”

The special enforcement continues through Aug. 31.

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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