Somerset police officers will be stepping up patrols on U.S. 27 through Memorial Day in an attempt to make one of the busiest roads in Pulaski County safer for motorists.

Operation Safe Stop, a driver’s safety program launched by the city police department in 2004, was kicked off Monday and will be enforced for the next 30 days. This year’s theme is “Look Up, Stay Back and Slow Down.”

The slogan relates to the three primary causes of traffic accidents on U.S. 27: driver inattention, following too closely and speeding. Officers will be targeting motorists who violate these and other safety violations.

“It is the goal of the Somerset Police not to write a lot of tickets, but to get drivers to be more careful and pay better attention to their driving to avoid accidents,” said Lt. Allan Coomer, public information officer. “If drivers would stay focused on their driving, slow down and take their time, it would help reduce accidents and possibly save a life.”

One of the biggest distractions is cell phones. Officers keep account of the number of times a cell phone is in use at the time of an accident. “To be safe, drivers should pull safely off the road to conduct a phone call,” Coomer said. “The use of a hands-free device helps, but when you are talking on the phone you are not giving your full attention to the road.”

Running of red lights is another cause of many accidents on U.S. 27. Intersections are the scene of many rear-end accidents. It is a common occurrence for police officers to be told by motorists, “I thought they were going to go through the light and I couldn’t stop in time,” Coomer said.

He recommended motorists travel with a distance of two seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. “It will help give you enough time to react to whatever happens in front of you,” Coomer said.

Speeding can mean the difference in an accident or near miss, or in more severe cases, a life or death situation.

“Nearly everyone speeds. Most of us don’t think about how much difference it makes, but if you are driving the speed limit of 45 mph on U.S. 27, you are traveling 66 feet every second. Speed up to 55 m.p.h. and you’ll go 80 feet in one second. Crank it up to 65 m.p.h. and you’ll travel over 95 feet in a second. Traveling at that speed, you will go an additional 29 feet every second over a car traveling the speed limit,” said Coomer.

The General Assembly passed a law this session that mandates motorists wear seat belts or face a possible fine if cited.

“Seat belts save lives and reduce injuries in accidents,” Coomer said. “It’s very important that drivers and passengers buckle up. This includes the littlest passengers in their child safety seats. Also, you should have your child safety seat checked by a child safety seat technician to be sure that the seat is safe, it is installed in the car properly, and the child is strapped in properly.”

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