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Jump in Indiana traffic deaths spurts speed crackdown

Friday, June 22, 2012

Putnamville District Commander Lt. Dan Jones
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana State Police are turning to pickup trucks marked as highway department vehicles and more unmarked cars to try to crack down on speeding and reckless driving and stem an increase in traffic deaths.

State police officials say they also plan to increase patrol efforts in construction zones and on rural highways and county roads where speed limits are higher than urban areas.

The agency says at least 226 people have died in 2012 from crashes on Indiana roadways, up from 197 deaths a year ago.

Trooper Aaron McCormick of the Lafayette post said he often has drivers fly past him as he patrols in an unmarked Ford Mustang.

"I get to blend in with traffic and watch the cars around me," McCormick told the Journal & Courier for a story Friday. "People just aren't paying attention when driving."

State police plan a "wolf pack" approach in some trouble spots.

"We will saturate areas where we believe more accidents or (traffic) violations are happening," Sgt. Rich Myers of the Indianapolis District told The Indianapolis Star. "We want a visual effect. If there's a large amount of enforcement and a large amount of people are seeing it, then we're getting the message across."

The Putnamville post, which covers much of western Indiana, will use red Ford Mustangs, white Dodge Chargers, Dodge Ram trucks marked as highway department vehicles, a motorcycle and an airplane in its crackdown effort.

Putnamville District commander Lt. Dan Jones said the traffic death figures are alarming.

"Our number one mission is to reduce these crashes," Jones said.

Putnamville post Trooper Jesse Schmidt pulled over a speeding driver within minutes of starting a patrol Thursday in a disguised pick-up truck along U.S. 40 near Terre Haute.

After running a background check and speaking to the driver, Schmidt wrote him a warning for speeding and failure to signal and issued a violation for not wearing a seatbelt.

The goal, Schmidt told the Tribune-Star, isn't to "load people up" with expensive fines, but to get their attention, slow them down and get them to use seatbelts.

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