- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maryland State Police said yesterday that more troopers on the road and aggressive traffic enforcement over the Thanksgiving weekend kept roads safe and limited the number of traffic deaths to one.

However, Sgt. Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman, stopped short of calling the results a success.

“Anything more than zero [fatalities] is too much,” he said. “But to almost get through a major holiday weekend without a traffic fatality is a good sign that people heeded the message and that we have increased our visibility.”

Troopers made more than 7,400 traffic stops and issued nearly 10,000 citations, warnings and equipment-repair orders during the four-day weekend, a roughly 60 percent increase compared with the 2004 holiday weekend.

Sgt. Rouse said the increased number of citations could be attributed to the mild weather’s enticing more motorists to take to the road.

Officials said motorists can expect the increased police presence on state highways through the end of the year. The additional patrols are paid, in part, through federal grants.

State police also arrested 127 motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol. Sgt. Rouse said catching drunken drivers is a high priority during the holiday season.

A report by the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group for traffic safety, released Monday shows nearly 45 percent of Maryland’s traffic deaths involved alcohol consumption, compared with 39 percent nationally.

No traffic fatalities were reported in the District during the holiday weekend, police said. The District relies heavily upon automated traffic enforcement, with only a small percentage of traffic citations issued by officers.

Calls to the Metropolitan Police Department traffic-safety division yesterday for statistics were not returned.

Virginia State Police also reported an increase in citations issued during the holiday weekend, which ran from last Wednesday to midnight Sunday. More than 17,000 citations were issued this year, compared with almost 15,000 in 2004.

Police also made 168 arrests for driving under the influence, 24 more that last year, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Virginia also increased patrols through the state-sponsored program known as Combined Accident Reduction Effort, or CARE, which runs during national holidays.

Despite the increased patrol and number of citations, Virginia had 19 traffic deaths during the extended weekend, the same number as last year.

“Seeing traffic fatalities on the rise in Virginia after experiencing a record four-year low is unsettling for law enforcement and the public,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, state police superintendent.

Other state police officials agreed with Col Flaherty.

“It’s like the superintendent said, one fatality is one too many,” Miss Geller said. “We wish we didn’t have to issue any [citations], that would mean that people are obeying the law.”

Twelve of the victims were 16 to 28 years old. Eleven of them were not wearing safety belts, and alcohol was a factor in five of the crashes.

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