Maryland State Police to crack down on distracted driving
Maryland State Police plan to aggressively ticket motorists who are caught using their cellphones or doing other things that pull their attention from the roadway. Capt. Michael Fluharty, commander of the state police barracks in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, said troopers are going to work overtime to look for people who are breaking distracted-driving laws, such as using their cellphones, putting on makeup and reading maps. "We don't like to write the tickets," he said. "But it's the best way to get the message across." He said the tickets will cost $83. The initiative started across the state on Saturday to kick off Distracted Driving Month. Fluharty said motorists still will be allowed to change radio stations and speak on their cellphones via Bluetooth. He said the push against distracted driving is timely, considering 13 senior citizens were killed in Texas last week when their church bus was struck by a driver who a witness alleged was texting. It has been estimated that a person texting takes his or her eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. That is like covering the length of a football field while driving blindfolded at 55 mph, according to a state police news release. Motorists often are unaware that diverting their attention from the road can unconsciously lead to unsafe driving behavior, such as failure to drive in a single lane, following too closely or failing to reduce speed to avoid a crash. Drivers should eliminate any activity while driving that diverts their eyes from the roadway, their hands from the steering wheel or their awareness of the traffic conditions around them, the release said. The Maryland Highway Safety Office determined that distracted driving causes crashes that result in more than 31,100 injuries across the state each year. Under Maryland law, also known as Jake’s Law, a driver causing serious injury or death while talking on a handheld cellphone or texting could receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These are primary offenses, and police officers can stop drivers when those activities are observed, regardless of the presence of other violations. How to prevent distracted driving as a passenger: Request that the driver put down the cellphone while behind the wheel. Offer to send a text or make a call for the driver, so he or she can focus on the road. Offer to help watch the road. As a parent: Be a good role model and practice what you preach. Do not call or text your child if you know he or she might be driving. As a driver: Turn off your cellphone while you are driving. Pull off to the side of the road to send a text or make a cellphone call. If you think you will be tempted to check your cellphone, avoid the temptation by putting it in the trunk or the back seat.
Louisiana State Police get 46 new troopers
Louisiana has 46 new state troopers. Louisiana State Police held a graduation ceremony Wednesday for its latest cadet class, the 95th in their history. Graduating troopers got gold boot badges at a ceremony in Baton Rouge. The new troopers will participate in a 10-week field training program under the supervision of a senior trooper and then will be deployed around the state. The troopers have been in training for 22 weeks since November. Sixty-four potential candidates started the training, and 46 finished it. Training areas include physical fitness, crash investigation techniques, emergency vehicle operations, impaired driving detection and traffic incident management.
State Police: $13.7M in drugs seized this year
State troopers seized $13,755,803 in illegal drugs through the first three months of 2017, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Pennsylvania State Police. Heroin accounted for the vast majority of seizures — 29.26 pounds valued at $10,194,375. Troopers also confiscated fentanyl totaling 8.5 pounds, valued at $52,000, as well as a mishmash of 4,075 pills, including prescription opioids. More than 3,500 people died of a drug overdose in Pennsylvania in 2015, with heroin and prescription opioids found in a majority of the cases. “Heroin is the big thing we’re seeing now,” said Cpl. Adam Reed, state police communications director. “You are seeing more and more of that across the state.” Heroin seizures are on pace to exceed 2016 totals, when 100 pounds valued at $34.2 million were seized. Trooper Rick Blair, public information officer based at the Milton barracks, said the state trend of heroin as the drug of choice is evident locally. “We’re seeing the same thing,” Blair said. The totals from the state police show proactivity in a job that’s often reactive, Blair said. Troopers are making traffic stops or responding to 911 calls, and they’re looking beyond the obvious. A speeding violation led to the arrest of a New York man accused of delivering 2.27 pounds of cocaine to Cleveland, Ohio. He was stopped while traveling west on Interstate 80 in White Deer Township, Union County. Charges were filed by troopers from the Lamar station. The stop netted a third of the 6.6 pounds of cocaine seized across the state this year. “They’re seeking clues and other identifying factors to say, ‘You know, we may have someone stopped that might be more than a speeding violation,’” Blair said. In addition to opioids, state police confiscated 22.2 pounds of methamphetamine valued at $1,004,642 as well as 539 pounds of processed marijuana valued at $1,884,625. A December arrest — falling just outside first quarter 2017 figures — on Interstate 80 in Valley Township, Montour County, netted 67 pounds of marijuana valued at $402,000. The types and amounts of illegal drugs seized at any one time are unpredictable. Reed said the totals are a combination of multiple large busts and many more smaller seizures. It’s not just during traffic stops, either. “We have troopers seeking drugs at shipping facilities, train stations and airports,” Reed said.
Godson of fallen trooper in Ohio receives special badge number
New Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper A.J. Torres was given a badge number with a symbolic meaning to him and his family. After completing his training at the Highway Patrol’s training academy, Torres, 21, was assigned badge number 511, which corresponds to the unit number of fallen trooper Kenneth Velez. Velez was Torres’ godfather and the gesture by the Highway Patrol was not left unnoticed. Torres said he was initially assigned a different badge number and completely in the dark about the symbolic gesture until after he was pinned, the day before his graduation from the academy. “At first I didn’t recognize it, but then when I went back, it clicked and said, ‘man, this is my uncle’s number,’ ” Torres said. Velez, 48, died in the line of duty Sept. 15, 2016, from injuries suffered in an accident on Interstate 90 in Cleveland while conducting traffic enforcement. Torres completed his first shift with the Elyria Post and said he was excited to put what he had learned into practice after working hard at the academy. Torres is assigned to the same post as his father, also named A.J. Torres. The elder Torres was named Highway Patrol’s retired Trooper of the Year for 2016 and served as a trooper with the Elyria Post for 26 years. The younger Torres said growing up in a police family had an enormous influence on his decision to enter the academy and become a trooper. Torres said he admired the memories of growing up in a police family and has always been a part of the police culture. He said he remembers always seeing his father’s police cruiser in the backyard and the sage advice given to him by Velez. “My uncle was always a huge influence and just said if you want to do it, just do it,” Torres said.