Police on lookout during holiday weekend

WHEELING – Law enforcement on both sides of the Ohio River will be on the lookout for drunken drivers during the Labor Day weekend, when roadway travel is predicted to reach a recent high.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol will join thousands of other highway safety partners throughout the nation to take part in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown on impaired driving.

The State Patrol St. Clairsville detachment will use federally funded overtime hours to saturate the local roadways with troopers looking specifically for drunk drivers and speeders, said Sgt. Don Britton. The increased patrol began Friday and will continue through all of Labor Day, Monday.

During last year’s four-day holiday reporting period of Aug. 31 through Sept. 3, 14 people lost their lives on Ohio’s roadways, with five of those deaths involving an impaired driver.

Ohio, however, is on pace to establish a record low in traffic fatalities in 2013, the State Patrol announced Thursday. Ohio’s previous record low occurred in 2011, when 1,014 people were killed in traffic-related crashes on Ohio’s roadways.

The Wheeling Police Department is participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown, as well. Extra officers will be on the roadways looking for drunk drivers and speeders, said Cpl. Neil Fowkes, who also serves as Highway Safety Coordinator.

Motorists can also expect to see extra West Virginia State Police troopers on the road, said State Police Sgt. C.J. Lantz. He reminded drivers that handheld cell phone use and not wearing a seat belt are now primary violations.

Auto travel is anticipated to be up 3.1 percent this weekend in the South Atlantic states, which includes West Virginia, with 5.3 million drivers traveling to their destination, according to AAA. The busiest travel days this holiday are expected to be Friday and Monday.

AAA projects 34.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during Labor Day holiday, a 4.2 percent increase from the 32.7 million people who traveled last year. The total number of holiday travelers is expected to reach a new post-recession high.