Nine departments focus on Street Road corridor as dangerous holiday weekend begins
For Immediate Release from the Bucks County District Attorney's Office
Contact: Matt Weintraub (215) 340-8159
Gathering at the scene of one of the area’s worst DUI-related crashes, Bucks County law enforcement officials today announced a cooperative effort to keep motorists safe on one of the nation’s most dangerous nights to be on the road: Thanksgiving Eve.
Beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, officers from nine county police departments will patrol the Street Road corridor in Lower Bucks County, one of the area’s most accident-prone stretches.
The goal is to deter motorists from driving while impaired in the first place, said Matt Weintraub, Chief of Prosecution for the District Attorney’s Office. Officers will be looking for signs of unsafe driving and will arrest anyone found to be drunk or under the influence of drugs.
“I’m hoping people will take the hint and we won’t have to make any arrests,” Weintraub said today in announcing the patrols. “But I suspect that we will make plenty.”
The Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally the most heavily traveled and most dangerous holiday of the year; partly because of the volume, partly because of impaired driving.
Officers from Bensalem, Hilltown, Lower Southampton, Middletown, Upper Southampton, Warminster, Warwick and Warrington Townships, as well as Penndel Borough, will be part of the patrols along Street Road and its feeder streets between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. The added officers, and their training for this detail, are funded largely through a continuing federal safety grant administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Weintraub announced the prevention effort in the 400 block of Street Road in Upper Southampton, where four teenagers died in a DUI crash on a fall evening 30 years ago. Four other teens were injured. The county coroner at the time called the 1985 crash scene “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.” Weintraub and Upper Southampton Police Lt. Craig Rudisill, another organizer of the roving patrols, were friends or classmates of the dead and injured.
“This initiative can’t turn back time to bring our friends back,” Weintraub said. “I wish it could. But I know it will prevent many others from suffering the same fate.”
Nearly a half-million motorists from the five-county Philadelphia area are expected to be traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. It is the highest expected traffic volume since 2007, largely due to the lowest gas prices in years.
Thanksgiving Eve is particularly hazardous. Many motorists are setting out on their travels while others, such as out-of-town relatives and college students who are home for the holidays, crowd into bars and restaurants to renew old acquaintances. Some tavern owners refer to Thanksgiving Eve as “Black Wednesday” because of the huge bump in business it brings.
Too often, this combination proves deadly. In 2013 alone, more than 300 people died in crashes on the nation’s roads during the Thanksgiving weekend.
During the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend in Pennsylvania, 499 crashes and 13 deaths were attributed to impaired drivers. Sixteen of those crashes and one death were in Bucks County. Montgomery County had 36 impaired-driving crashes and one death during the same period; Philadelphia had 37 impaired-driving crashes and one death.
While Thanksgiving is especially dangerous, impaired driving is a year-round concern everywhere. In 2013 and 2014, according to PennDOT, 924 crashes in Bucks County were attributed to alcohol-impaired drivers, resulting in the loss of 23 lives.
That is why additional roving DUI patrols and checkpoints are planned for the coming year throughout Bucks County. These will be announced as the dates approach.
For officers participating in this program, “the knowledge that their enforcement effort saves lives fuels their commitment to improving traffic safety,” said Bensalem Police Sgt. Robert Bugsch, another organizer of the patrols. He added that the number of community groups that support and encourage the DUI patrols “demonstrates that impaired driving is not only a law enforcement problem, but also a community problem.”