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Law Enforcement Out in Droves for Weekend Traffic

  • Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles Senior Inspector Chris O'Keeffe coordinates with Vermont State Police officers before beginning a patrol on Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H., Friday, September 1, 2017. The law enforcement officers were in Lebanon for a joint news conference with New Hampshire State Police on increased patrols for Labor Day weekend. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lt. Joe DiRusso, left, of New Hampshire State Police, and Lt. Roger Farmer, of Vermont State Police, speak at a joint news conference off of Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H., on Sept. 1, 2017, about increased patrols over Labor Day weekend. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, September 01, 2017

Lebanon — On Friday afternoon, about 15 uniformed officers from three different law enforcement agencies used the truck weigh station south of Exit 19 on Interstate 89 as a staging area for the first part of their mission — smothering Labor Day weekend traffic with enough of a presence to deter drivers from texting, driving while inebriated or disregarding their seatbelt while behind the wheel.

“We’re focusing on the Upper Valley,” said Lt. Roger Farmer of the Vermont State Police who was joined by Lt. Joe DiRusso of the New Hampshire State Police for a brief joint news conference before the uniformed troopers hopped into their vehicles and flooded the interstate.

Behind DiRusso and Farmer, a half-dozen troopers from each state and two officers from the Department of Motor Vehicles posed for a group picture before receiving their final instructions.

It didn’t take long for the troopers to hit the streets after the meet up. Four New Hampshire troopers were seen running radar around 4 p.m. between Exit 13 in Grantham and Exit 19 in Lebanon.

In five hours on Friday, 100 motorists were issued tickets for speed violations and 8 for the use of hand held electronic devices, according to a Vermont State Police news release.

Members of the public — particularly those who are looking at flashing red and blue lights in their rearview mirror — sometimes deride traffic enforcement as a low priority relative to violent crimes, but DiRusso said the operation is a life-saving mission.

“People who are driving under the influence, we want to get as many of them as possible off the road,” DiRusso said.

The focus is particularly relevant in the wake of a four-day flurry last month of five fatal crashes that killed eight people in the Twin States, including one death in Royalton and another on Interstate 91 in Springfield, Vt., a grim reminder that every year, people in the Upper Valley die on the road.

In 2016, there were 130 fatal crashes in New Hampshire alone, while Farmer said there have been 41 in Vermont so far this year.

A majority of the fatal crashes are associated with intoxication, lack of a seatbelt, or both.

For the police, the weekend’s activities will include saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints in Windsor County, and the New Hampshire police aviation unit also will use a helicopter to monitor the road for speeding or aggressive driving.

Authorities are targeting Labor Day weekend because of an expected dramatic surge in the number of vehicles on the road, including on I-89, which sees traffic counts of about 41,000 near the Vermont state line on an average day.

New Hampshire’s Division of Travel and Tourism Development officials say they’re expecting a record-setting 640,000 visitors over the three-day weekend, about 3.5 percent higher than last year.

The weather forecast also is calling for possible rain on Sunday, which will increase the likelihood of accidents, Farmer said.

The officers asked that those who notice unsafe drivers in New Hampshire call state police dispatch at 603-223-4381, while those in Vermont call the Royalton Barracks at 802-234-9933.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.