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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

State safety program to boost warm-weather road patrols

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Extra police will be patrolling two Toledo freeways on certain days this spring and summer under a state safety program that is entering its second year here and fourth overall.

Starting next week, SafeCommute Ohio will pay for special patrols on I-75 between Miami Street and Phillips Avenue and I-475 between I-75 and Talmadge Road to target speeding and other moving violations, the Ohio Departments of Public Safety and Transportation jointly announced yesterday.

Lt. Kevin Keel, head of the Toledo police traffic section, said the program will provide funds for two officers to work the assigned freeway sections between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Those hours were chosen, ODOT spokesman Michelle May said, because speeding is a bigger problem at midday than it is during rush hours, and police activity might cause rubber-necking delays too.

"The rush hours are so busy that sometimes a law enforcement officer has the undesired effect of distracting traffic," Ms. May said.

Statewide, the Taft admin-istration is spending $800,000 this year on SafeCommute Ohio patrols in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo. The campaign began three years ago in Columbus and has been gradually expanded since then, reaching Toledo last summer.

ODOT reported that while traffic crashes on the targeted section of I-75 declined 21 percent between 2004 and 2005, from 414 to 365, crashes on the east end of I-475 rose from 205 in 2004 to 224 in 2005.

"We don't get too concerned about the short-term numbers," Ms. May said. "Sometimes this program has an immediate impact, sometimes it takes a little longer."

The ODOT spokesman could provide no counts of how many tickets the special patrols issued in Toledo last year after the crackdown began in July.

Along with enforcing speed limits and other traffic laws, the extra patrols are directed to assist in clearing minor accidents from the roadway so as to reduce backups and the risk they pose of secondary collisions.



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