State step ups efforts to slow down speeders

Officers to be in Camaros, at construction sites between the city and Del.

October 12, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Unmarked Chevrolet Camaros and police officers masquerading as construction workers will be part of a stepped-up effort by the Maryland Transportation Authority to catch speeders and aggressive drivers, the authority announced yesterday.

Five unmarked police Camaros and one marked one began patrolling Interstates 895 and 95 from Caton Avenue in Baltimore to the Delaware line yesterday.

And at construction sites along those highways, the authority is beginning Operation Hard Hat, in which officers operating radar will don hard hats and construction vests to catch speeders.

"When [drivers] see construction workers in our work zones, we want them to think about what they're doing and to drive safely," said Thomas L. Osborne, executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Authority police already have two unmarked Ford Mustangs and five unmarked Ford Expeditions on the highways.

This year, officials said, nine fatal accidents have occurred on I-895 and I-95 between Baltimore and Delaware. Police blame aggressive driving for two of them.

"If you're planning to drive in an unsafe manner, don't even think about doing it in Maryland," said state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari.

Porcari said the fatality rate on Maryland roads is 1.3 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The national rate is 1.5 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles.

Aggressive driving is defined as exceeding the speed limit, following too closely and making unsafe lane changes.

The six Camaros are a part of Operation HEAT (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic) and cost the transportation authority $25,450 each.

In addition to Operation HEAT and Operation Hard Hat, the authority's I-95/I-895 safety initiative announced yesterday will include continued use of sobriety checkpoints, expanded use of the authority's courtesy patrols, which respond to disabled vehicles, and radar enforcement on highway overpasses.

"We make it our priority to crack down on those who put at risk the lives of others with their dangerous driving behavior," said Col. Larry E. Harmel, chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

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