ISP plans highway emphasis patrols
Sat., Oct. 23, 2004
Consider this a warning.
In response to a jump in crashes and highway fatalities, Idaho State Police officers will begin turning up the heat on bad drivers next week on Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 95, said Capt. Wayne Longo.
The department’s emphasis patrols are aimed at sending a message of zero-tolerance for speeding, aggressive driving and reckless behavior.
“I’m kind of at my wits’ end,” Longo said. “If this continues, once the slick weather hits, our serious injury crashes are just going to skyrocket.”
Last year, 18 people were killed in highway crashes in North Idaho. This year, 24 have been killed. “We still have two months to go,” Longo said.
Radar trailers displaying motorists’ speed will be placed along the routes. And officers will be less likely to listen to excuses, Longo said. “We can hopefully slow people down before winter.”
Complaints also are rising over aggressive driving, Longo said. This includes everything from tailgating, to passing on the right, to road rage.
Drivers with mobile phones often call in the complaints and frequently follow the offender until officers arrive. On some shifts, Idaho State Police dispatchers have dealt with three different road rage complaints at the same time, even though only two officers might be on duty.
“I don’t have any extra money for shifts,” Longo said. “None of us have any extra bodies to put out there.”
Highway 95 between Garwood and Sandpoint will be one of the emphasis patrol routes. Conservative estimates say about 100 vehicles are being added each month to the already crowded highway’s traffic count. The other emphasis patrol route will be the increasingly congested I-90 between Fourth of July Pass and the Washington border.
Longo said officers simply can’t keep up with the growing volume of calls. City and county officers also are strapped, he said. “We’re finally getting to the point where the resources I have can’t deal with the growth anymore.”
The Idaho Transportation Department is working with ISP on the emphasis patrols. The agency intends to increase motorist awareness about the need for safety and develop a safety corridor on Highway 95 next summer, said Scott Stokes, ITD’s district engineer in Coeur d’Alene.
The corridor will include rumble strips and enhanced road markings.
The department also is working to widen the highway mile-by-mile, Stokes said.
“The big thing is to encourage people to be patient,” Stokes said. “Let’s get people thinking about being safe.”
Next month, the Idaho State Police will offer the first of three winter road driving courses.
The “Road Safe” course is free and runs from 1-3 p.m. on Nov. 20 at 602 W. Prairie, in Coeur d’Alene. To register, call ISP at 772-6055.
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