Saturday, September 04, 1999

Police primed to slow holiday speeders

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Patrolman Mike Carter and other Mason officers plan heightened patrols throughout the weekend.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        This is not the weekend to push the pedal to the metal. Take it easy. The relatives will wait, the barbecue will hold and the beer will stay cold.

        If you rush it, the police will be waiting — or you may find yourself running smack into snarled traffic.

        “This is not the weekend to speed,” said Lt. Scott Borden, of the Lebanon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. With an estimated 34.8 million people expected to travel 100 miles or more from home this weekend, the roads will be crowded.

        The dry, sunny forecast may bring out even more travelers, exacerbating traffic problems, police said.

Fairfield: Near old drive-in theater on Ohio 4; north of Interstate 275 on Winton Road.
Interstate 71: Particularly in Clinton County, known as “Radar Row.”
• U.S. 50.
• Interstate 275.
• Ohio 32.
• Amberley Village.
• Golf Manor.
• Terrace Park.
• Blue Ash.

Montgomery: Especially on Ronald Reagan Highway.
• Arlington Heights.
• Amelia: Ohio 125.
• Cheviot: Particularly intersection of Harrison Avenue and Bridgetown Road.
• Florence: Along Interstate 75 southbound, especially near rush hour.
• Fort Thomas.
• Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport area.
• Interstate 74: Coming into Ohio.
• Lawrenceburg.

        Tristate drivers can expect at least 10 to 15 percent more officers on patrol. In Ohio, that translates to another 140 troopers on the road. Sobriety checkpoints will be set up throughout the state.

        And roads already considered speed traps — or “high enforcement areas,” according to police — will be like spider webs, ensnaring even more heavy-footed drivers.

        “Our objective is not to write a ticket,” said Lt. John Born, spokesman for the Ohio Highway Patrol. “Our objective is to reduce the number of crashes. But sometimes a ticket is the only tool for that.”

        Kelly Rinker of Lawrenceburg, Ind., said the increased police presence will slow her down on the nearly five-hour trip to see her parents.

        “There's going to be speed traps all over the place,” she said. Her strategy to avoid a ticket: Set the cruise control at 68 or 70 mph.

        Although police officials and road safety groups take exception at the term “speed trap,” they said if their presence slows drivers, then it's mission accomplished.

        Lt. Born said there's no such thing as a speed trap.

        “You can't be trapped if you're not speeding,” he said.

        In the Tristate, police will have high-enforcement areas, targeting major routes, such as Interstates 75 and 71. In response to the summer spate of serious accidents on the northern band of Interstate 275, a special task force will run radar in the area.

        In addition to having more troopers on the road, the Ohio Highway Patrol will be available in other ways during the Labor Day weekend.
        With Operation Safestop, a trooper will be assigned to rest stops, alternating between northbound and southbound facilities. The trooper will be able to answer travelers' questions, hand out maps and other information, and serve as a reminder to slow down and drive safely.
        Also, 153 signs around the state will encourage motorists to phone toll-free (877) 7-PATROL — (877) 772-8765 — to report traffic violations or disabled vehicles, or to get directions.

        Only two spots in the country are designated as “speed traps,” according to the American Automobile Association, which has 42 million members nationally. Lawtey and Waldo, both in Florida, fall into the organization's speed-trap guidelines, said spokeswoman Janie Graziani.

        AAA offices provide alternate routes around the cities when producing travel maps for their members, she said.

        According to the Web site Tristate hot spots include Amberley Village, Arlington Heights, Amelia and Florence.

        The city of Fairfield “has police all over. Big force, known to hide,” the site says.

        Blue Ash is “absolutely crawling with cops,” a contributor advises.

        And as for Terrace Park, even the minor speeder is in trouble, according to the site: “Almost eveyone knows not to go even one mile over ... (The police) sit everywhere."

        The site, which accepts speed-trap nominations from any computer user, includes the disclaimer that it in “no way encourages speeding and recommends you always follow the posted speed limit.”

        Last year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol handed out 19,373 speeding tickets and nearly 13,000 warnings during Labor Day weekend. Officers are trying to curtail speeding, the No. 1 cause of accidents, on what is considered one of the most deadly weekends to drive.

        This Labor Day weekend kicked off with a rocky start, Lt. Born said. Near Sandusky, one person died in an accident on the Ohio Turnpike, and there was a 15-car pile-up near Sandusky.

        In Cincinnati, an early morning truck accident Friday on I-275 closed two highway lanes for nine hours. A tractor-trailer carrying 45,000 pounds of rolled paper swerved to miss a car and clipped an exit sign post that fell across the trailer.

        The driver, Robert Birch, 36, of the 8000 block of Carmargo Road, was treated at Fairfield Mercy Hospital and released.

        Speeding may not be a problem in the city of Cincinnati, Spc. Kevin Barrett said. Traffic likely will be too thick. He recommends allowing at least twice the normal amount of driving time.

        “In a lot of places, you may not even be able to do the speed limit,” the officer said. “Going the speed limit may be speeding in some places.”

        Michael D. Clark contributed to this report.


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