Troopers targeting speeders in Greene, Fayette
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
By Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A man wearing shorts and a ball cap backwards, sitting in a lawn chair and holding a newspaper alongside Route 119 in Bullskin, Fayette County, seemed out of place yesterday, but not so much that it made speeding drivers slow down.
Too bad for those who didn't. The man, an undercover state trooper, wasn't reading the newspaper but a portable radar gun he held behind it. Those exceeding the 55 mph speed limit were subsequently pulled over and ticketed by uniformed officers on motorcycles.
Those ticketed were stung by Operation Yellow Jacket II, an aggressive state police enforcement program targeting speeding, driving under the influence and seat belt usage in an effort to cut down on traffic fatalities and injuries.
The initiative, announced yesterday by state police Capt. Roger N. Waters at a news conference in the parking lot off Route 119, was precipitated by an alarming increase in traffic fatalities in Fayette and Greene counties in the first six months of this year, eclipsing the totals for all of 2006.
In Fayette County, 22 people have died in vehicle crashes, or three more than in all of 2006. About 80 percent of them were not wearing seat belts.
In Greene County, seven people have died in accidents in 2007, one more than last year's total.
"We're here this morning because we want to save lives, we want to reduce crashes, we want to prevent injuries. We care about what happens to people," said Capt. Waters, commanding officer of Troop B, which covers Allegheny, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties and a portion of Westmoreland.
The 29 people who have died in Fayette and Greene county crashes amount to two-thirds of the 43 people killed thus far in 2007 in all of the counties in Capt. Waters' command.
Roads to be targeted through Troop B's jurisdiction include Route 119, Route 51, Interstate 70, and anywhere speeding has caused accidents and deaths, he said.
And, he added, troopers will use nontraditional methods in trying to curb speeding, DUI and not wearing seat belts. Along two-lane roads, whose size makes traditional enforcement methods difficult, undercover troopers armed with portable radar guns will pose as civilians -- like the man pretending to read a newspaper. Because of their mobility, motorcycle officers will pull over speeders detected by the undercover troopers.
Also to be utilized are Pennsylvania Department of Transportation trucks, in which troopers will sit with radar guns. And helicopters will be employed to monitor speed with radio patrol cars to pull over speeders, Capt. Waters said.
Speeding is the No. 1 problem in the crashes, he said, adding that the nice weather may have played a role in the increased numbers because more people have been out and about in their cars.
To track how fast people are traveling, a speed monitoring wagon was set up for two days at a 55 mph section of Route 119, one of the main roads in Fayette County. The survey showed there were 402 vehicles clocked at 71-75 mph, 216 from 76-80 mph, and 151 in excess of 80 mph, including one timed at 155 mph.
"We need to make people aware of how fast they're going so they can maintain their vehicle in a safe manner," Capt. Waters said.
The enforcement patrols will include those troopers working their regular shifts and those being paid from funds amounting to 300 hours of overtime provided by the federal government.