Fair warning to motorist in Montgomery County on Friday: Maryland State Police based in Rockville have planned a traffic blitz aimed at slowing down drivers as the busy Labor Day weekend gets under way.
Troopers will implement Operation Centipede along Interstate 270, Interstate 370 and the Beltway. Troopers will be positioned at intervals of one or two miles along stretches of the roads to monitor vehicle speeds and discourage motorists from the behavior of slowing when they see a cruiser and speeding up after they pass it, said Sgt. Kimberly Smith, a spokeswoman for state police.
"Normally people believe once they pass an officer they can go speeding off," she said. "But with Operation Centipede, they'll see another officer, then another officer. Hopefully it will send a message that they can't just go speeding off."
Both marked and unmarked patrol cars will be used.
Lt. Clifford Hughes, commander of the state police Rockville Barrack, came up with the idea for Operation Centipede as a way of helping to reduce holiday weekend accidents, and especially fatalities, earlier this year.
"We did it Memorial Day weekend and July Fourth weekend," he said, noting there were no fatalities on Montgomery highways during those periods. He's hoping for another fatality-free holiday.
Traditionally a busy weekend for road travel, state police are launching several initiatives on highways across Maryland for the Labor Day weekend, including those that target speeders and drunk drivers.
So far this year, the Rockville Barracks has recorded the fewest number of highway deaths compared other barracks in the Washington region, Hughes said. The Forestville Barracks has had 14 fatalities in crashes on the highways it patrols, as compared to the College Park Barracks with five and Rockville with two.
Hughes said Operation Centipede will be in effect only on Friday, "but we'll have special speed assignments all weekend, especially on Monday."