Motorists who travel on Interstates 90 and 94 between New York and Washington state, here is your warning: police in 15 states, including Minnesota, will be out in force this weekend looking for speeders and drunk drivers and those who are not wearing seat belts or are engaging in distracted behaviors.
Led by the Minnesota State Patrol, agencies along the 5,600 miles of freeways stretching from New York to Washington state are participating in the I-90/94 Challenge with the goal of recording no traffic-related fatalities and reducing the number of crashes in half on what has been the most dangerous and deadly time period of the summer on the two freeways over the past three years.
From 2011 to 2013, more than 524 crashes have been recorded during the Aug. 1-4 time frame. Of them, 56 involved buses and large trucks, 10 were alcohol-related and three resulted in deaths.
"We are looking to go 0 for 4 this weekend," said Lt. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol. "We aim for 96 hours without a traffic-related death. We are asking motorists to take the challenge with us."
Along with state police, local law enforcement agencies will have a presence on freeways in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Washington. The goal.Langer said, is to show that high visibility, education and enforcement can prevent tragedies and cut the total number of crashes in half.
Police "will be cracking down on behaviors that have tragic consequences and to get motorists to drive like it depends on that, because it does," said Mona Dohman, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Her message to motorists: "Slow down, wear your seat belt, drive sober and pay attention."
The I-90/94 Challenge is part of a national effort by the International Association of Chiefs of Police called "The Drive Challenge." It's goal is to reduce traffic fatalities across the nation by 15 percent.
Throughout the campaign, law enforcement will be posting information and updates on the I-90/94 Challenge Facebook page (www.facebook.com/9094Challenge) and asking motorists to tweet messages using the hashtag #9094Challenge. They have crafted a pledge message on the Thunderclap, a social media site that allows several people to share the same message at once.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is also on board. More than one-third crashes involving truck drivers involve those who are not wearing seat belts. About 1/4 involve truckers who were speeding or going too fast in a work zone, said Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer and assistant administrator for the administration.
"We have to slow these truck drivers down," he said during a news conference Wednesday at the State Capitol. "These tragedies are preventable."
Photo: First responders held up tarps around bodies near the roll-over van on I-94 near 49th Avenue N. in Minneapolis in April 2013.