Aggressive driving targeted
By Luke E. Saladin
Post staff reporter
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In a move welcomed by local law enforcement agencies and motorists, Northern Kentucky is about to receive some financial help in its effort to reduce speeding and aggressive driving on Interstate 75/71.
Representatives from the Department of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement, the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration and several other organizations will announce a $1 million grant Tuesday at the Kenton County weigh station from the federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.
The grant will be used to address problems on I-75/71 in Northern Kentucky as well as portions of Interstate 65 between Louisville and Lebanon Junction. Those two stretches are considered the two most dangerous sections of highway in Kentucky, said Thad Sullivan, grant coordinator for the Department of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement.
Part of the money will be used to pay for a media campaign warning people to slow down on the two interstates. Sullivan wouldn't divulge details about the enforcement effort itself, saying that will be explained Tuesday.
"We want to use the grant to address aggressive driving behavior on I-75 as well as increase proper driving behavior," Sullivan said. "In the end, obviously, our goal is to reduce the rate of serious injury and fatal collisions."
Sullivan said the effort would include a number of organizations that regularly patrol the Northern Kentucky stretch of I-75/71, including the Kentucky State Police and the Boone County Sheriff's Department.
The stretch of I-75 known as the Cut-in-the-Hill - from Fifth Street in Covington to the Kyle's Lane interchange in Fort Wright - has been particularly dangerous when it comes to heavy trucks.
Law officers said the major problem there is speeding.
A recent report by The Department of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement characterized I-75/71 as a corridor "where commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles historically crash together."
Accident totals involving commercial vehicles have increased in the Cut-in-the-Hill each year since 2003, when there were 45. In 2006, there were a total of 80 such mishaps on that stretch.
Last year, the state installed signs over the northbound lanes at Kyle's Lane warning of the steep grade ahead. That was followed in January with yellow warning lights that were positioned at the top of the hill in an effort to slow traffic.
The state also announced plans this year to place solar-powered speed monitoring signs along the stretch of road, in hopes that motorists will heed the message and slow down.
And in March, the Dry Ridge Post of the Kentucky State police assigned a trooper to patrol the interstate between I-275 and the Ohio River. That was the first time the KSP has had such a detail in more than 10 years.
Fort Wright Police Chief Dan Kreinest said the state grant was good news.
"I'm not sure exactly what they have in store, but we welcome any type of help," he said. "That area has been a problem for a number of years. The more tools we have to address it, the better."
Beginning this month and continuing the rest of this year, police will clamp down on violations such as excessive speeding, improper lane changing, reckless driving and driving too close to other vehicles.
Statistics in recent years for Kentucky show that 72 percent of all fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles are caused by a non-commercial motor vehicle driver.
Barry Dunn, a 43-year-old truck driver from Lexington, said he was glad officers would be watching passenger vehicles closely during the initiative.
"I think a lot of times we get too much of the blame for the problems on the Cut-in-the-Hill," Dunn said. "That's not to say all truckers are perfect drivers, but a lot of times, I have cars weaving around me like my truck can just stop on a dime."
Dave Remington, a software consultant from Fort Wright, said he often encounters trucks driving dangerously and blocking traffic along the Cut-in-the-Hill.
"During rush-hour, it can just become a sea of trucks," said Remington, who has lived in Northern Kentucky for 15 years. "If one of those guys gets a lead foot or decides to change lanes without looking, you're dead. I think it would be great to have some more enforcement down there."
Trucker Harold Martz, of Nashville, said commercial and non-commercial vehicles both share the blame for accidents through such problem areas.
"I don't think a lot of people realize how difficult it is to stop a huge truck, but I also think a lot of truckers don't realize how fast they are going on a hill like that," Martz said. "The more information you can get out to the public, the better."