No fatalities reported as speed limit debuts


No fatalities or serious accidents were reported during the long holiday weekend on rural Maryland interstates where the speed limit was raised on Saturday to 65 mph.

But state troopers handed out 828 tickets to drivers who wanted to go even faster.

State Police spokesman Mike McKelvin called it "a very successful beginning" to the higher speed limits, "especially when you look at the serious and fatal accidents. We didn't have any" on the interstate highways. Six people died in noninterstate holiday accidents -- three of them on motorcycles, Mr. McKelvin said. During last year's shorter July 4 holiday there were seven fatal accidents. None of those was on the interstates, either.

Of the 4,729 tickets state police issued during the holiday weekend, 3,901 were written in 55 mph zones, and 828 in the 65 mph zones. No information was available on how fast those 828 motorists were driving when they were stopped.

Mr. McKelvin called the 4,729 speeding citations "about normal" for a holiday weekend. But it's well below the 6,000 speeding tickets written over the Memorial Day holiday. He attributed the decline to lighter traffic, a result of the rainy Fourth of July weekend weather.

Col. David Mitchell, Maryland State Police superintendent, has pledged a "zero tolerance, no excuses, see-the-sign and drive 65" campaign to prevent speeds on the rural interstates from creeping well beyond the new limits.

State police barracks received extra overtime money to put at least 100 extra officers on the road during the holiday weekend, and to boost patrols by several dozen extra officers for a time after that.

Troopers say most motorists are sticking fairly close to the new 65 mph limits.

"I didn't find a great many exceeding it by a great deal," said 1st Sgt. Dan Stanton, of the Garrett County barracks. He wrote two citations and four warnings during one six-hour patrol on Interstate 68.

The picture was a little different on Interstate 95 north of bTC Baltimore. Troopers from the John F. Kennedy Highway barracks during the holiday issued about 250 speeding tickets where the limit was 55 mph, and about 325 tickets in the 65 mph zones.

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