Massachusetts State Police announced Wednesday morning that while the nearly three-month patrol surge in Southeastern Massachusetts along Routes 24 and 195 may be over, there will continue to be a concerted effort to crack down on unsafe drivers.
"Any time an impaired operators are removed from our roadways, our roadways are safer," State Police Troop D Commander Major Anthony Thomas said during a press conference at the Route 24 rest stop in Bridgewater Tuesday morning.
The surge, which began in late July after a string of fatal accidents in the area, was focused on achieving just what Thomas described.
Overall, 90 OUI arrests were made during the hours between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekend nights in the later summer. One in every 32 vehicles stopped resulted in a drunk driving arrest. Of the 90 arrests, 74 were first-time offenders, 10 were 2nd time offenders and seven were third time offenders or greater.
The surge also resulted in over 1,400 speeding tickets and over 300 seat belt violations.
"We’re always going to have people that want to push the limit. We’re out there aggressively trying to prohibit that," Thomas said.
Thomas, along with Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Colonel Timothy Alben outlined the plan moving forward, which will continue a focus on limiting impaired or erratic operators in the area.
On Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., the minimum staffing will be increased by one at the Middleboro and Dartmouth Barracks.
"With each barracks, there’s a minimum staffing level for each particular shift," Alben said. "For Friday and Saturday midnight shifts, we’re going to increase that by one in Southeastern Massachusetts barracks. It might not sound like a lot, but it really is. We’re going to chop down those patrol areas to something that’s now divided by three or four people rather than two."
Additionally, the area will revert back to surge-like patrol numbers (an additional 11 patrols in the area) during the times of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
The state police will also utilize funds from the executive office of public safety for additional sobriety checkpoints in the area.
Officials touted the effectiveness of the surge, pointing out that no serious injuries occurred during the increased patrol presence.
"I am confident that this effort has saved lives," Massachusetts Department of Transportation Administrator Frank Depaola said.
The surge was implemented after an alarming number of serious injuries on Route 24.
At 4 a.m. on July 15, Mansfield teenager Lisa Banat and John LaChapelle, 44, of Tiverton, RI were killed when Banat allegedly drove the wrong-way on the highway in West Bridgewater near Easton's border.
The West Bridgewater accident was preceded by a slew of accidents in the same area.
On July 12, Angel Pina, a 12-year-old from Norton was killed and two others were injured in an afternoon accident on Route 24 on the Stoughton/Avon line, just north of Easton.
On July 14,
Officials reiterated that continued safety is in the hands of the public as well. Thomas and Alben urged drivers to report erratic activity.
"We need the public to partner up with us, because when they do, we make our roadways safer and the public is safer and we want to prevent horrific crashes," Thomas said.