Drivers on U.S. Highway 195 from Interstate 90 to South Hatch Road ought to be extra careful over the next two years.
Law enforcement officers last week said they plan to put more patrols on that stretch of highway under a special safety program launched this month.
Tickets for speeding, failure to stop and failure to yield right of way are going to be issued at a greater clip under the traffic corridor safety project, said Spokane police Sgt. Eric Olsen.
State and local officials want to reduce the number of accidents on the eight-mile stretch of highway.
They are looking for low-cost options. Stepped-up patrols are one way to improve safety. The patrols will be financed under a Washington Traffic Safety Commission grant.
The state Department of Transportation reported that 145 accidents, including three fatalities, occurred over a three-year period ending in December on that section of road.
Debi Hammel, whose daughter Lorissa Green died in a 2009 accident at U.S. 195 and Cheney-Spokane Road, said she supports the increased enforcement, and she is pushing for more roadway improvements.
She testified before lawmakers two months after her daughter’s death to urge funding for a $250,000 southbound deceleration lane for turns onto Cheney-Spokane Road.
That lane, which opened a year ago, has reduced accidents, said Harold White, engineer for the state Department of Transportation.
He said the intersection had been seeing about 12 accidents a year, but there has not been one since the lane was installed.
White said residents living off Meadowlane Road have asked for a similar deceleration lane, but there is currently no funding for one.
State highway engineers would like to improve the safety of U.S. 195 with a series of overpasses and interchanges, beginning with a $9 million overpass at Cheney-Spokane Road, but those projects are not funded either, he said.
So, for now, efforts to improve safety will revolve mainly around enforcement and a campaign to get drivers to be more careful.
A DOT study showed that a high percentage of drivers don’t stop properly at intersections, which officers said is a dangerous practice.
The study showed that, during a short monitoring period, nearly half of 22 drivers who turned right onto the highway from Hatch failed to stop properly.
At the Inland Empire Highway intersection, nearly 1 in 3 drivers performed “rolling stops,” meaning they did not completely stop their vehicles before proceeding.
“We want people to take their time and look several times each way before they go out” onto the highway, said Capt. Jeff Otis of the Washington State Patrol.
The WSP is reminding drivers about the rules for stopping when school buses are loading and unloading on public streets. A violation of a bus stop sign could lead to a $394 fine, and the fine cannot be reduced, suspended or waived under state law.
A video on proper driving practices around school buses can be seen at www.youtube.com/wspgovandmedia.
Joint emphasis patrol
Kootenai County law officers have launched an emphasis patrol to catch drunken drivers. The emphasis, through Sept. 7, is being done in tandem with a “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” emphasis patrol for DUI in the Spokane area through Labor Day.
Holiday travel up
AAA is projecting a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of Americans traveling over the Labor Day holiday.
It said that 34.4 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, compared with 31.3 million a year ago.
The organization said an improving economy is likely one reason for the increase. The travel industry is seeing a rebound in business dating back to the fourth quarter of 2009, AAA said.
Of those traveling, the majority – 31.4 million – will be going by automobile.
The AAA projection is based on a scientific survey and analysis by IHS Global Insight.
• Idaho Street in Post Falls will be reduced to one lane in each direction today and Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. while paving is completed on the stretch of street from Mullan to 20th avenues. Access from side streets and driveways will also be limited.
• Work on drains on the I-90 median between Maple Street and Argonne Road could result in intermittent lane closures Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• U.S. Highway 395 near North Hatch Road will be reduced to a single southbound lane this week after 9:30 a.m. for an indefinite period to allow construction trucks working on the North Spokane Corridor safer access to the highway.
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