If you're driving Memorial Day weekend, be warned: More Maryland State Police will be on the highways this holiday weekend, aiming to arrest speeders and aggressive drivers -- those motorists following too closely, constantly switching lanes or merging into traffic without yielding.
The reasoning for the aggressive approach? Fatal accidents in Maryland have risen nearly 35 percent this year compared to the same time last year.
As of Sunday, 270 people have died on Maryland roads this year, up from 203 for the same period last year, Mike McKelvin, a state police spokesman.
"Speed is the least of the contributing causes," Mr. McKelvin said.
State police data for the year's first quarter shows that 163 fatal accidents were reported in that period. While excessive speed was attributed as the cause of four of those fatalities, 34 resulted from drivers failing to keep to the right of the center line.
Another 23 fatalities this year were caused by drivers not devoting full attention to the road and 16 more happened because drivers did not grant the right of way. Alcohol has contributed to 13 deaths this year and drivers not obeying traffic signals have caused eight.
Mr. McKelvin called the "Aggressive Driver" program's start coincidental to the Memorial Day weekend, which begins at noon today and ends Monday at midnight. The program will last all summer.
"Memorial Day is the state's first C.A.R.E. holiday of the year, Mr. McKelvin said. C.A.R.E. stands for Combined Accident Reduction Effort, a national program designed to effect maximum highway enforcement during popular travel holidays.
Colonel David B. Mitchell, superintendent for the state police, announced earlier this week that money obtained from the Federal Highway Administration will enable more state police to patrol during peak travel periods.