State police trap hooks speeders on Interstate 79

Operation SneakPeek rolled out to step up enforcement against aggressive drivers

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The trip back to Kentucky for one of the attendees of last weekend’s Furries convention in Downtown Pittsburgh got a little, well, hairy.

The young man was snared with several others Monday in a Pennsylvania State Police speed trap on Interstate 79 to promote the start of an enforcement blitz against aggressive driving. Troopers clocked him at 73 mph in a 55-mph zone and issued him a souvenir of his visit that carries fines and costs of more than $170.

“I wasn’‍t aware of how fast I was going” is never a particularly effective excuse in such situations, even less so on Monday. PennDOT placed two speed clocks along the highway in both directions leading into the enforcement area, near the Allegheny-Washington county line.

“They go past the first one, it tells them their speed. They go past the second one, it tells them their speed. If they’re still speeding when they get to Southpointe, troopers will pull them over,” explained Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12.

Police call it Operation SneakPeek. A similar enforcement zone was set up Thursday on I-79 in Butler County.

For part of the morning, troopers weren’‍t catching any speeders, thanks in part to very heavy traffic that was slowing everyone down just enough to stay out of trouble. “Everyone’s behaving themselves,” Mr. Ofsanik said at one point. “Unbelievable.”

As traffic thinned a bit, feet got a little heavier on the gas pedals, and police cruisers started popping out of their hiding places. So it was with the Kentucky-bound vehicle, a red Toyota, which was stopped just short of the overpass leading to the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies.

Lt. Doug Bartoe of the state police said the enforcement wasn’t a one-time exercise. Troopers and municipal police will step up aggressive driving enforcement through Aug. 31, with the help of funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A similar crackdown last year produced 116,191 citations statewide, including 54,785 for speeding, according to PennDOT.

“This area’‍s developed into a crash cluster, from Canonsburg up to Bridgeville,” said Lt. Bartoe, who blamed several aggressive driving behaviors, not just speeding, for the increase.

Police aren’t stepping up enforcement to raise money, he said. “The idea is to get people to slow down. It has nothing to do with revenue.”

A speeding ticket can be costly: $140 to $180 including court costs and a possible increase of car insurance premiums. “A speeding citation might cost you money going 10 years down the road,” Lt. Bartoe said.

Juliann Sheldon, safety press officer for PennDOT District 11, got a firsthand look at the apparent need for speed enforcement when she was helping install one of the speed clocks Monday morning on southbound I-79. A car zoomed by, and the screen lit up.

“Eighty-five,” Ms. Sheldon said.

Jon Schmitz:, 412-263-1868 or on Twitter @pgtraffic. First Published July 7, 2014 12:00 AM

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