[Nameplate] Fair ~ 90°F  
Feels like: 97°F
Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

For many, holiday begins on the road

Thursday, July 1, 2004

Missouri Department of Transportation employees work on the south bound lane of Interstate 57.
SIKESTON -- Over 34 million American motorists are expected to take a road trip this Fourth of July weekend -- an increase of 3 percent from last year despite sky-high gasoline prices, AAA reports.

As a result, local highway officials are urging motorists to drive safely and responsibly this holiday.

"It's the height of summer travel season and we ask the folks to protect their families and ours from traffic crashes by obeying the laws, paying attention and buckling up. Your seatbelt can most definitely save your life," said Scott Meyer, Missouri Department of Transportation Southeast District manager.

Highways 60 and 67 and Interstates 55, 57 and 155 generally see extra traffic during the holiday, Meyer said. In addition, a lot of the roads leading to rivers and lakes are heavily traveled.

"There is a lot of maintenance work being done on a lot of the roads," Meyer noted. "For instance, if you go on US 60 west out of Popular Bluff, there's construction on a road where they're adding two lanes and they're making a four-lane road between US 67 and Van Buren."

And some of the projects are shut down for the holiday weekend to make traveling safer and more convenient for motorists, Meyer said.

For example, no major construction is planned from Friday evening through Tuesday morning in Tennessee, the state's Department of Transportation reports.

Work zone areas in Illinois will be opened for normal traffic patterns during Friday afternoon and will remain open until midnight Monday. However, there will be a number of work zones that will continue to have lane closures.

"Thousands and thousands of people will be on the Missouri highways, and we encourage everyone to leave a little early, pay attention, don't drive too fast, and if you get sleepy, swap drivers," advised Sgt. Larry Plunkett Jr., public information officer for Troop E of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

All available officers will patrol Missouri's roadways enforcing Missouri's speed limit, seat belt, and alcohol laws, in addition to being available to assist motorists, Plunkett noted.

Last year, 20 persons were killed and 914 injured in Missouri over the holiday in 1,262 traffic crashes. One person was killed or injured every 7.3 minutes.

Both Meyer and Plunkett agreed there are several things motorists can do to ensure a safer holiday.

"Plan your trip," Meyer recommended. "If you plan ahead then you'll know if you'll have delays and it will take the stress off of you."

Meyer encourages motorists to contact the Department of Transportation or visit the Web site for a list of lane closings.

Another major point is to slow down through work zones and through congested areas to reduce the possibility of having an accident, Meyer said.

It takes only 41 seconds to slow down to the posted work zone speed limit of 50 miles per hour on a road that's normal limit is 70, according to MoDOT.

Even though some work zones are shut down, there's still equipment and signs around and motorists still need to be careful, Meyer urged.

Plunkett and the patrol would like to remind motorists about last month's accident involving one of their own officers, Sgt. Brad Lively, who was struck and seriously injured while working traffic on Interstate 55 in Cape Girardeau County.

"If you see a trooper or ambulance or fire truck and emergency lights activated slow down and move over as much as possible. We're counting on motorists to watch out for us," Plunkett said.

By law, motorists are required -- when approaching emergency vehicles working on the roadways -- to move to the left if possible and to slow down.

Motorists should obey all traffic rules and signs. If MoDOT employees are working and a motorist is speeding through a work zone, it's a $250 fine.

Also motorists should always wear their seatbelts and monitor their cell phone use, Meyer suggested.

"We don't want to keep anybody from having a good weekend, but typically this is a time where a lot celebrating occurs and a lot of alcohol is consumed," Plunkett noted. "We ask anyone who drinks to not drive and have a designated driver available."

Troopers arrested 135 people for driving while intoxicated in 2003. Over the past five years, 74 people have been killed and 3,416 have been injured in traffic crashes on Missouri's roadways over Fourth of July holidays. "It's a holiday time and the worse thing you want to do is have a serious accident. The holiday is supposed to be a happy occasion -- you just don't want it to turn into a sad one. So drive safe."

Motorists who need assistance can contact the nearest Patrol troop headquarters by calling 800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone. For information about lane closings, visit MoDOT's Web site: www.modot.org.