Local police on alert during holiday travel

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Fourth of July is a major day in the summer travel season, but it can also be a dangerous one. That's why local authorities are stepping up enforcement on Missouri and Illinois roads this Independence Day.

Last year over the Independence Day holiday in Missouri, 12 people were killed and 840 were injured, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. Ten of the 12 killed were not wearing a seat belt. Over the past five years, 132 people have been killed and 7,210 injured in traffic crashes in the first week of July. Of the 132 people killed, 36 were in alcohol-related crashes.

"The deadliest days of the year in terms of traffic crashes are the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day," said Missouri Department of Transportation director Pete Rahn.

"So many of the deaths are preventable, though, just by monitoring your speed, wearing a seat belt and watching out for workers and other drivers."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said July 4 is when the most motor vehicle deaths occur in the United States, based on information from 1986 to 2005. Each year on the holiday, an average of 161 people die in crashes. That is 12 more deaths than the average on any other single day of the year. The second worst day for crash deaths during this time period was July 3.

Sgt. Dale Moreland of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Lt. Michael Hooks of the Illinois State Police said officers in both states will be focusing on five violations that cause fatal crashes: speeding, driving under the influence, failure to wear seat belts, following too closely and improper lane usage.

"We will ramp up our efforts to ensure our roads remain safe for the traveling public," Hooks said. "In addition, we will be vigorously seeking out and citing violators of Scott's Law."

Scott's Law, passed in Illinois in 2003, is meant to protect first responders and department of transportation workers from being hit by oncoming vehicles while on the side of the road. In order to avoid a Scott's Law violation, drivers in Illinois will need to merge to the left or reduce their speed when there is an emergency vehicle on the side of the roadway.

Police in Missouri and Illinois will also be conducting roadside safety checks, in which they will check for seat belt violations and impaired drivers. Last year during the Fourth of July holiday, Illinois State Police officers in District 22, which includes seven counties in Southern Illinois, wrote 241 citations, including 89 for speeding, 23 for alcohol-related infractions, 39 for safety belt violations and nine for child restraint offenses. Eleven people were arrested for driving under the influence.

jsamons@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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