U.S. Highway 41 speed enforcement kicks off Thursday; grant will boost patrols on highway

By Jennifer K. Woldt
of The Northwestern

Speeders beware.

Officers will be looking for you this summer.

Officers from 22 law enforcement agencies and the Wisconsin State Patrol from Menomonee Falls to Marinette will be participating in Summer Heat, a mobilization aimed at reducing speeding and aggressive driving on U.S. Highway 41, this summer.

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The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department received a $25,000 grant from the Wisconsin State Patrol Bureau of Transportation Safety to fund officer overtime during the mobilization, which begins Thursday and runs through Sept. 30.

During the enforcement, the sheriff's department will have officers dedicated to speed and aggressive driving enforcement for 90 four-hour deployments, a total of 360 hours of overtime funded through the grant, Winnebago County Sheriff's Capt. John Matz said.

"It gives us an opportunity to focus solely on making the highway safer," Matz said. "It's not so much issuing citations as it is enforcing safe driving habits."

Speed remains a factor in many crashes. According to the Bureau of Transportation Safety, speed was a factor in 16 percent of all crashes and 38 percent of all fatal crashes in 2006.

Drivers who are stopped during the enforcement period will receive a warning or a citation, which carries a fine between $186 and $501, Matz said. When the sheriff's department participated in a similar enforcement period in 2006, Matz said 779 citations and 236 warnings were issued.

In addition to speed, Matz said, deputies will also be watching for aggressive drivers, those who weave in and out of traffic lanes, follow too closely and those who do not obey the law requiring them to change lanes when emergency vehicles, highway workers or construction crews are working on the highway.

Officials hope the enforcement period helps drivers realize their driving habits determine how safe they are when traveling.

"We really want to remind drivers to drive safely," Matz said. "In essence, they're responsible for how safe our highway is."

Jennifer K. Woldt: (920) 426-6676 or jwoldt@thenorthwestern.com.