After a night of drinking at a friend’s house in New Bedford, a woman got into her car and drove home, taking Route 24. A man who had been boating in Rhode Island downed alcoholic beverages at a bar before driving back to the Boston area, his girlfriend in the passenger seat. He also took Route 24. Both motorists were arrested by state troopers, according to authorities.
In the past 10 weeks, as part of a State Police saturation patrol on Route 24 and Interstate 195, troopers have arrested 90 motorists on charges of operating under the influence and have written 1,448 speeding tickets, many for speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Many of the OUI arrests involved repeat offenders. Troopers also issued 320 seat-belt citations and 75 criminal summonses and made 83 arrests for various other offenses.
Since the start of the crackdown in Southeastern Massachusetts, there have been no traffic-related deaths or serious injuries.
“I strongly believe our increased patrol efforts have saved lives, prevented horrific crashes, and help dispel the notion of Route 24 as being a dangerous roadway,” said Major Anthony Thomas, Troop D commander.
The extra patrols have been concentrated on Friday and Saturday nights and early mornings, and police have vowed to continue to discourage impaired driving and speeding.
The campaign was launched after a series of fatal crashes. Five people died on Route 24 last year, according to the State Police. Six people have died on the highway this year.
On July 12, a 12-year-old Norton girl was killed when the truck she was riding in blew a tire and rolled over near the Avon-Stoughton line. She was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle.
Three days later, just before 4 a.m., a car driving the wrong way collided head-on with a pickup truck in West Bridgewater. Two people — a 19-year-old Mansfield woman and a 44-year-old man from Rhode Island — died in the fiery crash.
The campaign is data- driven, officials said Wednesday during a press conference at a service station along Route 24 in Bridgewater. State Police, using statistics drawn from over five years, found that most crashes related to speed or alcohol occur overnight Friday and Saturday, and targeted their campaign for those hours.
“We were intercepting the right people,” Thomas said.
“People out that late at night, more likely than not, if you’re not going to work or have some legitimate reason to be out there, are probably stepping out of the bars impaired,” he said. “These are your heavy hitters … They want that last touch of that drink, and then they’re stepping out to the roadways.”
The campaign will continue through the holidays, and will involve sobriety checkpoints and other initiatives. Two additional patrols will be added out of the Middleborough and Dartmouth barracks. The program has cost about $125,000.
Part of the campaign uses signs along State Police-
patrolled roads and highways. “I think if you keep seeing them, it will sink in that the enforcement effort is still out there, said Sergeant David Wordell.
“You have to have that discussion at home, before you leave. Before you go out for the night, you have to designate a driver.”Brian R. Ballou can be reached at email@example.com.