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Ohio State Highway Patrol ready for heavy summer traffic

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Memorial Day was the unofficial kickoff of the summer season, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol saw heavier traffic than usual with more expected throughout the summer.

Lt. James Faunda described the violations troopers saw during the recent holiday weekend.

“Over the Memorial Day weekend we partnered with the Steubenville post and, between the two posts, we wrote over 1,000 citations, had 18 OVI arrests for impaired drivers, had 128 seat belt violations and three felony arrests for possession of drugs. We saw a huge increase in traffic this year, despite the rainy weather the first three days. It did appear that more travelers had taken to the roadways for their vacation,” he said.

“The economy is growing, gas prices are still at an all-time low and more people are taking to the roads to travel. Even if travelers are planning to fly somewhere, they still have to get to the airport in a vehicle,” Faunda said, adding carelessness and excessive speed were major contributors to accidents. “We had a lot of high-speed drivers, 100 mph, high 90s, and we also had aggressive driving violations — swerving in and out of traffic, improper lane changes.”

Faunda pointed out safety concerns in the local region are further complicated by three major construction projects: The new overpass for the connecting route between the Ohio Valley Mall and U.S. 40 and two bridge replacements in the western portion of the county.

“Those construction areas have reduced speed limits. They have narrower lanes of travel and, at one point of construction, it splits into two separate lanes. We’ve seen an increase in crashes in those areas, so we’re putting additional troopers to actually work those areas to get people to slow down,” he said. “This summer is one of the busiest years on Interstate 70 for construction projects in our area.”

He pointed out drivers need to concentrate on their driving and asked that they slow down and avoid distractions.

“For some reason, people just are not paying attention to what’s going on in front of them whether it’s a cell phone or a child in their car or the radio. They need to pay attention,” he said. He noted that leaving early for one’s destination is another precaution anyone can take.

He said the patrol will maintain a strong presence throughout the summer events.

“We have additional officers on the road during the three summer holidays, and we schedule 100 percent of our troopers to work. We also use federal overtime to supplement these on-duty officers with other troopers so that we have more of a presence, because at the end of the day our main goal for the three summer holidays is to have no traffic fatalities in the respective post areas,” he said.

The Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday this year.

“For us, the holiday weekend starts on Friday, so it’s going to be a five-day holiday work period that we’re going to be having the troopers scheduled for.

“From Friday through Tuesday we’ll have 100 percent of our troopers on the road across the state, and we’ll also continue to use federal funding to supplement on-duty troopers with overtime,” he said.

He added that cooperation with Steubenville post will continue.

“For 2017 we started this partnership with the Steubenville post, so on any major event or holiday we partner with them,” he said, adding that the proximity of the two posts and and their similar issues and geography mean the troopers are suited to cooperation.

Faunda said this will be needed, particularly for the largest summer event.

“We’re already in preparation for Jamboree in the Hills. We expect record turnouts again, over 100,000 attendees, and this year we’re actually bringing more troopers from other posts within District 7, which is the Cambridge District. Last year in a four-day period we made 30 OVI arrests for impaired drivers. We expect this year to be even higher. Everywhere in Belmont County, you’re going to see a trooper,” he noted.

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