Friday will be the second round of extra police patrolling Interstate 44.
Every other Friday in July and August, starting July 9, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, in conjunction with the police departments in St. Louis County and Eureka, will have extra patrol cars cruising Interstate 44 between the Six Flags area and Interstate 270.
The reason for these “overtime saturations,” Cpl. Dallas Thompson of the highway patrol said, was to reduce speeding and crashes on the 15-mile stretch of road.
“We’ve had several serious injury crashes and fatality crashes, and we’re going to add four troopers ourselves along with however many officers St. Louis and Eureka are going to add and just saturate that stretch of roadway,” he said.
Thompson said that crashes and fatal crashes increased during the pandemic despite there being 50 percent fewer cars on the road. The reason for this is speeding, as people continue to be caught traveling at speeds in excess of 90 mph even as traffic becomes heavier.
The St. Louis County Police Department committed two officers to the detail July 9. They made nine stops and gave out ten citations. Six citations were for speeding, and two warnings were given. Other citations included seat belt and insurance infractions, failure to register a vehicle and lack of a driver’s license. No data was available from the highway patrol.
“The reason why this detail came about is this is a very busy time of the year, obviously on Interstate 44 with boats and RVs and stuff traveling to and from,” said Sgt. Shanna Ostendorf, supervisor of St. Louis County’s highway patrol unit. “And there have been several major accidents over the years in that general area, so in order to combat some of the aggressive driving, Eureka came up with this idea and invited our traffic unit and the highway patrol to join them to try to help with those efforts.”
Ostendorf’s unit is experienced with running speeding details with multiple officers all over the area’s highways, though not always with other departments. Teamwork is always welcome, though.
“Being able to work together with those agencies brings the departments together. Our working relationships are better and just have more of a visual presence on a roadway that, not only is the highway patrol out here enforcing traffic laws, but these local municipalities that the highways run through are also out here trying to get people to slow down and drive safe,” Thompson said.
Ostendorf knows drivers speed up after they are out of eyesight from a patrol car, but she says the goal of the operation is to get drivers to think twice about driving aggressively.
“Yeah, I mean the goal is success, and, you know, the success might be short lived, maybe a month or two where people are like, ‘Oh, they might be out here today, but I don’t know.’ But at least for a month or two, we have made a difference for the citizens traveling through.”
Thompson added that if drivers see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road, they should do their best to get into the left lane in order to ensure the safety of everyone on the shoulder. If drivers are unable to get over, then they are urged to slow down as much as safety allows.