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Published: Saturday, 12/22/2001

Traffic officers home in for holidays

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's - and other houses - we and millions of others will go during the Christmas and New Year's weekends.

And area law enforcement agencies are ready.

They'll be out with extra patrols this weekend and next, looking for speeders, erratic drivers, and those who aren't using seat belts or child restraint systems.

Their biggest effort will be targeting drunken drivers.

“This holiday season give friends and family a gift that will last a lifetime - offer to be a designated driver,” said Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Gregory Greggila of the Walbridge post.

During the three-day holiday period last Christmas, 17 people died in crashes in Ohio. Seven of the deaths were the result of alcohol-impaired drivers. During the New Year's weekend, there were five fatalities, two of which were alcohol-related, according to the highway patrol.

In Michigan 11 people died in crashes during the Christmas holiday last year. Two of the crashes involved alcohol. Fourteen people were killed during the New Year's holiday, with five of the crashes being alcohol-related, according to Michigan State Police.

“If you're drinking, don't drive. There will be zero tolerance,” said Lt. Don Atkinson of the Lucas County sheriff's office.

The Ohio Highway Patrol plans to saturate areas prone to high numbers of impaired driving incidents. Enforcement blitzes this weekend are part of the National Holiday Lifesavers Weekend Mobilization, which ends tomorrow.

In Michigan this weekend, the state police will have extra patrols on the road in 24 counties, including Monroe and Lenawee.

“We will be targeting freeways and [major state routes],” said Sgt. Jeff Hook of the Monroe post. Some areas include I-75, I-275, U.S. 23, M-24, and M-50. The areas also will be watched the weekend before New Year's.

Toledo police have additional traffic officers working through Christmas Eve and will have extra patrols prior to and during New Year's Eve. Lt. Louis Borucki said officers especially will target I-75 and I-475.

He and other authorities expect a lot of traffic this weekend because they've already noticed an increase in the number of vehicles on the road, whether it's people doing last-minute shopping or starting their travels early.

The Lucas County sheriff's office will have extra deputies patrolling areas where crashes frequently occur, such as U.S. 24, Airport Highway, and State Rt. 2 in Jerusalem Township. The extra Christmas enforcement began yesterday afternoon and will operate through tomorrow. It will begin again the weekend before New Year's.

Washington Township police plan to start their traffic blitz tonight, targeting drunken drivers and those not wearing seat belts. The department plans extra patrols until Jan. 1 along Alexis Road and Shoreland and Suder avenues and Summit Street.

In Sylvania Township, police started a traffic blitz yesterday aimed at speeders and drunken drivers that will run through the first of the year. Officers especially will be targeting West Central Avenue between Reynolds and Centennial roads.

Blade staff writer Jason Williams and the Associated Press contributed to this report.



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