Metro-East News

Get ready for Memorial Day weekend: Police patrols, travel, weather

An Illinois State Police trooper uses a laser radar speed gun to clock motorists from the Black Lane overpass above Interstate 55/70.
An Illinois State Police trooper uses a laser radar speed gun to clock motorists from the Black Lane overpass above Interstate 55/70.

With Memorial Day weekend about to commence, here are some things to keep in mind while celebrating the holiday.

Extra patrols

As people prepare for their Memorial Day weekends, law enforcement is set to have extra patrols on the road to ensure people aren’t driving drunk and people have their seatbelts buckled.

The stepped-up enforcement comes as traffic fatalities are on the rise in Illinois and throughout the country, the Illinois Department of Transportation said.

Last year, according to provisional data, 998 people died on Illinois roads, the highest in seven years. As of May 20, 372 people have died in crashes, a nearly 18 percent increase in one year.

Heavier travel during summer months is often followed by an increase in motor vehicle fatalities. Last year, 13 people died in 12 crashes during the Memorial Day weekend, IDOT said.

The latest forecast for the weekend: A chance of rain Saturday but clearing skies Sunday and Monday.

“We are very concerned about the upturn of motor-vehicle fatalities in Illinois,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “To start getting those numbers going in the opposite direction, we encourage everyone to take one critical action that can save them in a crash – buckle up. Don’t make this holiday weekend a tragic one.”

Illinois State Police will have extra troopers on the road this weekend to enforce traffic laws in an effort to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities.

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, with families and friends expected to travel in and through the metro east for social gatherings, picnics and other festivities. Oftentimes, these social activities include an increase in alcohol consumption. One drunk driver can turn an exciting enjoyable summer event into a tragedy.

District 11 Interim Commander Lt. Timothy Tyler

District 11 plans to add more than a half-dozen officers to patrol areas in Madison and St. Clair Counties through Monday enforcing rules on speeding, driving under the influence, seat-belt usage and distracted driving, said Trooper Calvin Dye Jr.

The extra officers will be paid with a federal grant, Dye said, aimed to reduce traffic fatalities.

Dye reminded drivers to designate a driver, buckle seat belts, obey speed limits and other traffic laws, and not drive distracted. Under Illinois law, drivers can only use hands-free electronic devices while driving.

Last year, State Police issued 3,309 speeding tickets during the four-day holiday weekend. During the same time period, there were 217 DUI arrests, 961 seat-belt violations and 164 distracted driver violations.

“Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, with families and friends expected to travel in and through the metro east for social gatherings, picnics and other festivities,” said District 11 Interim Commander Lt. Timothy Tyler. “Oftentimes, these social activities include an increase in alcohol consumption. One drunk driver can turn an exciting enjoyable summer event into a tragedy.”

For those planning to use public transportation, Metro will operate on a Sunday schedule on Memorial Day, Bi-State Development Director of Communications Patti Beck said.

Madison County Transit does not plan to run any service on Memorial Day. Service is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

The start of the summer travel season

With lower gas prices, the AAA projects that 38 million people will travel this weekend, the second-highest Memorial Day travel volume on record and the most since 2005.

Last week, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.26 — 45 cents less than last year. AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the lowest Memorial Day gas prices since 2005. According to a recent AAA survey, 55 percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.

To help with traffic flow, IDOT said it plans to suspend all non-emergency roadwork and open all lanes where possible; there are some areas where road closures or lane restrictions have to stay in place.

At Lambert International-St. Louis Airport, Public Relations Manager Jeff Lea said Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer travel season.

More families, infrequent travelers and larger groups can be expected to be at the airports.

With “more people bringing luggage, that accentuates wait times,” Lea said. “If you’re with a family with kids, you might want to give yourself more time than the minimum.”

With “more people bringing luggage, that accentuates wait times. If you’re with a family with kids, you might want to give yourself more time than the minimum.

Lambert PR manager Jeff Lea

The Transportation Security Administration, which as been criticized for long wait times throughout the country, advised people to arrive up to two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights.

Lea said Lambert’s three checkpoints each have their own peak times for waiting. Some could have waits of 30 minutes, but the same checkpoint could have a 5 minute wait a short time later.

The upcoming weather forecast

According to the National Weather Service, the area could expect some rain during part of the Memorial Day weekend.

On Saturday chances of thunderstorms are 50 percent with a high of 80 degrees.

On Sunday and Monday the skies are expected to be mostly clear as the chance of storms is reduced to 20 percent with a high in the mid-80s.

  Comments