Traffic detail beefed up for July 4th weekend


Published: Friday, July 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 11:22 p.m.
July 4th weekend makes for risky time to be on roads
More than 1,600 people have died on Florida's roads so far this year, at least 100 more traffic fatalities than were reported at the same time in 2004.
It's a number that worries officers, especially as motorists hit the road for the holiday weekend.
"We know that it is always a deadly holiday," said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Mike Burroughs.
Forty-two people were killed on Florida's roads during the 96-hour Fourth of July holiday weekend last year.
Seventeen of those who died were in vehicles that had seat belts, but they weren't wearing them. Twelve of the crashes were alcohol-related.
The longer, hotter days of the summer holiday tend to mean more accidents caused by motor vehicle problems, alcohol and road rage, Burroughs said.
"What we have discovered is one of the leading causes of single-car crashes is by underinflated tires," he said.
"Most people just don't understand that when a tire has less air in it, it's going to operate hotter. Just in the last couple of months, we've seen crashes caused by blowouts. Car maintenance, especially tire maintenance is very, very important, especially in the summer.
"The warm weather also tends to cause those who consume alcoholic beverages to do so at an increased rate," he said.
More drivers on the road is a factor in the rising number of deadly traffic crashes, according to troopers.
With the rising number of traffic deaths in the state, officers plan to increase patrols this Fourth of July holiday weekend and strictly enforce traffic rules, including a new law that lets them stop a vehicle if someone under 18 isn't wearing a seat belt. The new Primary Seat Belt Law, which goes into effect today, holds drivers responsible when underage occupants don't buckle up.
Troopers in the nine-county North Central Florida area that includes Alachua County have two Mercury Marauders, which are not outfitted to look like police vehicles. And around the state, Burroughs said, administrative staff with the Highway Patrol will be out of the office and on the road to monitor traffic.
Troopers will be checking for speeders, too, using radar guns.
Efforts to watch for drunken drivers or other traffic problems in Alachua County and Gainesville started Thursday, said officers with both the Sheriff's Office and city Police Department.
In Gainesville, police were scheduled to set up a checkpoint on S. Main Street on Thursday night through early today. Throughout the long weekend, police will have roving patrols looking for drunken drivers, said Gainesville Police Lt. Don Dennis, who oversees the department's Traffic Safety Team.
Six more deputies will work the weekend, said Lt. Ryan Cox with the Sheriff's Office Traffic Safety Bureau. Deputies will be stationed in areas where communities are planning weekend celebrations and events.
Several other new traffic laws go into effect today.
Among them is one that requires a driver to use a turn signal to indicate a lane change or when passing another vehicle. Another targets motorists who drive dangerously slow and raises the minimum speed from 45 mph to 50 mph on roads where the posted speed limit is 70. A third reduces the distance from 100 feet to 25 feet at which a sound-making device, such as a stereo system, may be plainly audible before it becomes a violation.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@ gvillesun.com.
NEW SEAT BELT LAW The new Primary Seat Belt Law, which goes into effect today, holds drivers responsible when underage occupants don't buckle up. The law lets police stop a vehicle if someone under 18 isn't wearing a seat belt.

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