EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 13, 2013

State wants I-93 drivers to slow down

Highway message board, more traffic enforcement coming

By John Toole

---- — The state is getting complaints about traffic accidents regularly disrupting the morning commute on Interstate 93 south in New Hampshire.

Massachusetts-bound drivers soon will get a wakeup message from highway officials.

They plan to put a portable electronic message board in the Windham-Salem area, encouraging safer driving. It would ask motorists to stay alert and drive carefully.

Pete Stamnas, who is overseeing the $800 million I-93 widening project for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, said he wants the sign up right away, as soon as next week.

The commander of State Police Troop B, which patrols I-93, said troopers will be giving the highway additional attention.

“Troop B of the state police is going to be coordinating efforts with NHDOT,” Lt. Chris Wagner said. “We will be increasing our enforcement efforts.”

Stamnas is on the receiving end for complaints about the traffic accidents on I-93.

“I get them all,” he said.

He is now getting a couple of calls and emails each week about crashes tying up traffic. Crashes are happening at least once a week during the commute, he said.

“Last week, there were crashes three days in a row,” Stamnas said. “They create major traffic backups and we hear about them – loudly.”

Stamnas not only hears about them, he said, he sees them when he commutes north to his office in Concord.

This is the off season for construction, so that doesn’t appear to be a factor for crashes.

“Sometimes, they are weather related,” Stamnas said.

But there may be other reasons.

“People are driving too fast, too close to one another and they are distracted,” Stamnas said. “We’re trying to get people to slow down and pay attention.”

Stamnas said he isn’t sure yet whether an existing sign will be relocated or a new one placed by the highway, but it will happen in the coming days.

“Sooner than later,” he said.

The location isn’t set yet.

“We want to put it up somewhere near the Salem town line, south of Exit 3, in the Exit 2 or Exit 1 area,” Stamnas said.

About 100,000 vehicles per day travel I-93 in the Salem-Londonderry area.

“There are a lot of good drivers out there, a lot of good people doing a lot of the right things,” Wagner said. “But it only takes a handful to send the wrong message.”

Wagner’s consistent message to drivers is to slow down, drive the speed limit.

The average speed on I-93 is 82 mph, which is 17 to 27 mph over the legal limit, depending on location, he said.

His advice also includes paying attention, keeping a safe distance and making safe lane changes. That means checking mirrors and signaling when switching lanes.

“You can’t create an unsafe environment,” Wagner said.

Drivers can face criminal charges if they drive unsafely and cause accidents, he said.

Increased police enforcement is making a difference in highway safety, Wagner said.

“If we could put a trooper at every mile marker, we would be much better off,” he said.

State police can’t do that, though, so it’s up to drivers to drive safely.

“Invest in your safety and the public’s safety by doing the right thing,” Wagner said.