Busy roads over holiday, police keeping an eye out

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The local highway patrol reported busy roads during the four-day July 4 holiday weekend, and troopers will be cracking down on impaired drivers through the summer.

“Traffic was really heavy,” Sgt. Drew Hertlein said, adding that the state saw 12 fatal crashes during the weekend. “Locally we did not have any fatals, which is always good. We saw an influx of traffic, which was to be expected, but luckily everybody drove safe. We handled a few crashes, but nothing major.”

While he did not have the number of crashes or arrests of intoxicated drivers at hand, he said troopers were out in force to deal with the high number of vehicles, as well as the heavy storms and flash floods Sunday which further complicated traffic.

“The only thing unusual was the amount of flooding with the rain down around Neffs,” Hertlein said. “We were very busy because of the rain. We had an influx of the number of crashes after the rain hit. We were down around Neffs trying to make sure everybody was okay, trying to help people get out who were stuck in their houses or their cars. We assisted multiple people who were stranded in their cars. We were also trying to search for cars that were floating away due to the rain. We were there in full force trying to help out with that.”

Hertlein added that the tendency for families to take to the roads also meant they ran the risk of being caught up in storms and floods.

“We had multiple families stuck in cars. One in particular was where the fire department was able to get there before us, they were able to rescue a family that was on top of their car. There were multiple instances like that,” he said. “That was the biggest event for us over the weekend.”

In other matters, Lt. Maurice Waddell reminds drivers that troopers will continue to focus on watching for impaired driving. The public is asked to call 677 to report impaired drivers, drug activity or stranded motorists.

“We can’t fight the battle against impaired driving on our own. We need your commitment to make our roads safe.” Waddell said in a statement. “Everyone can help make our roads safer by planning ahead, designating a sober driver and insisting that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up.”

This year, troopers from the St. Clairsville post have arrested 241 impaired drivers, according to Waddell. Statewide, troopers have made more than 10,000 arrests for impaired driving this year.

Hertlein said troopers are seeing an increase of impaired driving from marijuana and other drug use as well as alcohol.

“We as troopers go through multiple different trainings to help combat that issue,” he said. “We’re always on the lookout even during the daylight hours for the impaired drivers, the reckless drivers, not just at nighttime anymore because of the drug-related issues that we’re seeing.”

He said troopers are trained to determine if a stopped driver is impaired due to a medical issue or to drug use and what the most likely substance is.

“We try to narrow it down in terms of what signs and symptoms we’re seeing from the person,” Hertlein said, adding that although the popularity of medical marijuana has grown, he does not think this has contributed to impaired drivers. “We see a lot of (illegal) marijuana.”