Crackdown along I-75
Patrol is heavier in county to cut fatal accidents
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 10:32 p.m.
After an alarming number of fatal accidents on Interstate 75 in Alachua County in November, Florida Highway Patrol troopers have changed the way they patrol that stretch of road - and the changes are working, they say.
FYI: I-75 numbers
During the detail on I-75 in Alachua County, from Dec. 1, 2002, to Jan. 5, 2003, FHP issued:
Seven people died on I-75 in Alachua County last November, which accounted for most of the 11 deaths on that part of I-75 last year, according to FHP statistics.
The seven deaths happened in four separate crashes. Three of the crashes were caused by careless driving and one by someone carrying an improper load.
"This is one of the worst stretches we deal with," FHP Lt. Mike Burroughs said.
Because of that, troopers launched a safety plan from December through Jan. 5 that involved taking troopers from less dangerous areas and putting them on I-75, Burroughs said.
FHP Capt. Leroy Smith, Gainesville's district commander, assigned all Alachua County troopers exclusively to I-75 and re-assigned some troopers from Cross City to I-75 in Alachua County.
This is the first time FHP has tried this detail, Burroughs said. And since the detail started, there have been no crash deaths on I-75 in Alachua County.
And while there's no way to prove the detail is responsible for saving lives, Burroughs said he thinks it helped.
"If we have saturation, more visibility and more troopers and our deaths went down, we might be on to something," Burroughs said.
In fact, the way FHP patrols I-75 in Alachua County may permanently change because of the detail's success, Burroughs said.
The interstate is now the primary zone for the eight or 10 FHP and sheriff's officers to cover in Alachua County, and troopers may be pulled from Cross City, which has fewer fatalities, when needed.
Megan Henson, a driver from Macon, Ga., said she has noticed a change for the better.
"In the past coming into Florida, I've gripped my steering wheel," said Henson, while walking her dog at a rest stop off I-75 in Alachua County on Monday. "This time, it's not nearly as bad. People are driving slower."
Henson, on her way to Tampa, said she has noticed more troopers on the interstate on her drive down and said she's glad to see them.
"I didn't like driving in Florida before that," she said.
Alachua County resident Boyd Stutts said speeders are a problem on I-75 in Alachua County and more troopers in the area might help.
"I go the speed limit, and they fly by me like I was standing still," Stutts said.
During the FHP detail, some drivers even passed marked FHP patrol cars at high speeds, Burroughs said.
FHP also will do an aggressive driving detail next month on I-75 in Alachua County. There will be between 15 and 20 troopers in marked cars, unmarked cars and an airplane saturating the area, Burroughs said.
"It's making people think," Burroughs said. "It's making people respect that patrol car and remind the person of their bad driving."
Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or email@example.com.
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