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Police to take aim at aggressive drivers

Massachusetts State Trooper Larry Richardson, out of the Newbury barracks, clocks the speed of drivers on Route I-95 North during rush hour on Tuesday evening. Photo by Kristen Olson/Salem News.

By Jill Harmacinski
Staff writer

DANVERS - Keeping your cool behind the wheel could save you a bundle, particularly over the next two weeks.

Starting Monday, courtesy of a $500,000 state grant, extra state troopers and local police will be on the roads targeting "aggressive and dangerous" drivers - the ones who speed, taunt, tailgate, weave through traffic and use the breakdown lanes as their personal freeways.

Fines for such violations range from $25 to $250 and soar higher if you're also caught speeding.

"It's clear that if people have unsafe, aggressive driving problems, they will now be much more likely to be caught," said Brook Chipman, spokesman for the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau, the state agency backing the "Road Respect" campaign. The campaign is scheduled to run through April 17.

State police have held similar programs that attempt to target the kind of driving that can lead to road rage. But this year, local police are also part of the plan. Among the more than 250 departments that have received grant money for extra patrols are Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Hamilton, Wenham, Ipswich, Marblehead, Swampscott, Middleton and Topsfield.

"This is so much more of an intense enforcement," Chipman said. "And the average person is much more likely to see the results."

State police plan to deploy 12 teams of four troopers each on Interstates 95 and 495 and Route 128 at unannounced times over the next two weeks, said Maj. Kevin Kelly, area state police commander. The troopers will use both marked and unmarked cars for the patrols.

Middleton Chief Paul Armitage said drivers can expect stepped-up patrols along Route 114 at peak periods. Tempers often flare on two sections of the highway, at the Danvers line and Middleton Square, where the road narrows to a single lane, he said.

"People are really cutthroat," Armitage said.

Armitage said he hopes drivers will practice patience over the next two weeks.

"If they can't do it out of respect for their neighbor, they can do it so they don't receive a citation," he said.

In Marblehead, the grant money will enable police to put extra patrols on main streets all over town, including heavily traveled West Shore Drive and Rockaway Avenue, Lt. David Millett said. Although the town only measures 4.2 square miles, Millett said there are more than 25,000 cars in town.

"Driving used to be a fun thing, but now it's a real labor to get from one place to another," said Millett, a 30-year veteran of the department.

Also, as road construction continues throughout April, Kelly said troopers will continue to ticket speeders on Interstate 95 from Danvers to Newbury. Three serious crashes, including one that claimed the life of a 21-year-old Newburyport woman, occurred on that stretch of highway in recent weeks. State police have ticketed hundreds of drivers in that section of I-95 in the wake of the crashes, Kelly said.

Staff reporter Jill Harmacinski can be reached at (978) 338-2652 or by e-mail at [email protected]
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