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I-680 Police plan early patrols

By Patricia Meade

Friday, January 31, 2003

Appearance of road surfaces during the winter can be deceiving, cops say.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Read this real fast: Stop speeding on Interstate 680.
As soon as the heavy snow is removed, early morning commuters traveling I-680 will find extra police on a section of the freeway using radar and lasers to catch those going more than the 50 mph limit. The extra patrols will work from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m.
The enforcement was to begin this morning but the heavy snowfall overnight nixed the plan. Officers were too busy with crashes.
Commuters will get advance notice of the target enforcement area with lighted "Your speed is -- " radar signs.
In the past, drivers were not issued a ticket unless they were 15 miles over the speed limit, said Lt. Mark Milstead, commander of the accident investigation unit.
Lately, though, speed combined with wet and slippery pavement has caused multiple-vehicle accidents, he said.
There have been six- and 10-car pileups, he said.
Patrolman Jimmy Rounds, while writing up one accident, had two more happen behind him, Milstead said.
Milstead said a profile of the speeders shows that most are young, inexperienced drivers from the suburbs coming into the city at 65 or 70 mph.
What happens
When they enter the freeway at 65 or 70 mph, they're going too fast for the way the road was designed, Milstead said.
"They hit a section of the freeway that's curved or see an accident ahead and don't have enough time to react," Milstead said. "They're braking and sliding into a wall or other cars."
Everybody speeds, the lieutenant said, but younger drivers don't pay much attention to road conditions.
Motorists must adjust to weather and learn that appearances can be deceiving. A road can look dry but really be covered by thin ice, he said.
Milstead said the city isn't known for speed enforcement, so people gradually creep up their speed. Police will now be proactive.
Luckily, he said, the recent rash of crashes has not resulted in serious injuries.
"I fear the time when people will get killed walking around an accident scene," Milstead said. "The speeders just have to slow down -- that's it."
Being clocked at 70 mph in a 50 mph zone could cost $80 or $90 in fines and court costs, Milstead said. A second offense within a year has a potential fine of $250, and a third offense, $500.