DOVER — State officials announced plans Thursday to aggressively enforce driving-while-intoxicated, speeding and seat-belt laws throughout the state this summer.
More than 150 law enforcement agencies statewide will participate in the efforts, which begin this weekend and are set to run through the end of September, according to Peter Thomson, coordinator of the NH Highway Safety Agency.
It's the second year in a row for comprehensive, aggressive patrols which began in response to concerns over rising numbers of motor-vehicle related fatalities.
The amount of motor vehicle crash-related deaths in the state has crept up over the past 11 years, increasing from 118 in 1995 to 127 last year, according to Highway Safety Agency numbers. The amount of alcohol-related deaths has increased by 5.8 percent in that same time period.
In 2004, the amount of roadway fatalities rose to 171 from 127 the previous year. In 2005, the number dipped a little to 166, and more aggressive enforcement began after that, Thomson said.
A total of 55 fatalities have occurred so far this year, which Thomson says is higher than it was at this time last year.
"Because of all these increases in numbers ¿ we have looked to see what it is we could do to drive the numbers downward," Thomson said. He says the number of fatalities dropped in 2006 to 127, at least partially because of the stronger enforcement efforts.
Driving while intoxicated checkpoints and saturation patrols will be held throughout the state again this summer, as will enforcement related to speeding on major state corridors.
A number of area police departments will be participating in the driving while intoxicated saturation patrols, including Barrington, Dover, Durham, Lee, New Durham, Newmarket, Rollinsford, Rochester, and Somersworth as well as the Strafford and Rockingham County Sheriff's Offices. Portsmouth will conduct driving while intoxicated checkpoints.
Additionally, in conjunction with a national campaign, the state has mounted its own seat belt enforcement effort called "Join the NH Clique", which is set to run through June 3. Patrols will enforce the child passenger safety law, which requires all vehicle occupants up to age 18 to wear seat belts and all children under the age of 6 and less than 55 inches in height to be restrained in a child safety seat.
Seat belt usage has been in the public eye recently, as state legislators debate whether to make seat belts mandatory for everyone. New Hampshire is the only state in the nation that does not require seat belt usage for adults.
The mandatory seat belt bill passed the House but is awaiting passage by the state Senate, with critics calling it an attack on personal freedoms. On Wednesday, the Transportation and Interstate Cooperation Committee recommended against the bill.
Dover police will be participating in the driving while intoxicated and seat belt enforcements, said Police Chief Anthony Colarusso. He said the department also recently received its own grants from the Highway Safety Agency to enforce speeding laws, crosswalk laws, and other moving violations all summer.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine State Police will hold a joint news conference this afternoon to announce increased enforcement efforts along the I-95 corridor beginning this weekend and lasting through the summer. Heightened enforcement will include high-visibility patrols, the addition of extra patrol units, the utilization of Laser and Radar for speed enforcement, and the use of motorcycle and aircraft units to monitor traffic.