WASHINGTON – Maryland State Police stepped up safety measures Friday on the Prince George’s County portion of U.S. Route 301, where 11 people have been killed in traffic accidents this year.
The police campaign, which includes increased patrols and information efforts, comes on the heels of a Maryland State Highway Administration announcement of a special study of the deadly stretch of highway.
Highway officials expect preliminary results of their study by the end of the month.
State police officially launched their campaign Friday, in order to have an impact before the heavy Thanksgiving holiday traffic.
The police campaign aims to encourage driver attentiveness on the high-speed road, which has 60 intersections in the 24-mile Prince George’s County section alone. Police believe that inattention is a major problem on the highway, which now records an average of one accident a day.
“We’re stepping up enforcement and are going to have high visibility. This is not about writing more tickets,” said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the state police.
Piringer said that for the next several weeks, four troopers will be dedicated to patrolling Route 301 exclusively, up from two who used to patrol the road in addition to other highways they had to cover.
Police will also distribute a road safety brochure in local shopping centers — and to motorists they stop for tickets on Route 301. Piringer said the campaign is focusing on local drivers, who were involved in all of 11 fatalities this year.
Finally, Piringer said, police will use devices to slow speeding drivers, such as a false police car perched on the side of the road and a sign that displays a car’s speed as it passes.
The State Highway Administration, meanwhile, have set up electronic signs along Route 301 with messages like “stay alert” and “buckle up.”
The administration’s study on the engineering aspects of the road will help to determine if the highway itself is to blame, said SHA spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar.
“We are doing a study to see if there are possible engineering changes we can make to make the road safer,” said Edgar.
She said the Prince George’s County stretch of the road had been average in terms of accidents until this year. Last year, for example, three people were killed in crashes on that stretch of Route 301.
After only a day of the new campaign, Piringer said state police could not yet determine if the heightened visibility was helping.
But neighbors of Route 301, who complained recently about the state’s inaction on the deadly highway, said they are optimistic that the police efforts will help prevent the accidents.
“I think it’s a good idea. It’s not going to solve the problem, but it’s going to help,” said John Adams, a trucking company owner in Brandywine.
“Any time people are out there and see the police they slow down, but they have got to be in different locations [to be effective],” he said.
A.J. Patel, manager of the Forest Hills Motel in Upper Marlboro, said that the road really needs to be widened to improve safety. But he agreed, “That may help with the police patrolling.”