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Troopers in disguise nab speeders on Route 66

Emily Balser
| Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 4:15 p.m.
State Trooper Mathew Myers clocks traffic with a radar gun and calls in the description of speeding cars to other troopers waiting farther down Route 66 in Washington Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
State Trooper Mathew Myers clocks traffic with a radar gun and calls in the description of speeding cars to other troopers waiting farther down Route 66 in Washington Township on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
State police stop a vehicle along Route 66 in Washington Township to cite the driver for speeding on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune Review
State police stop a vehicle along Route 66 in Washington Township to cite the driver for speeding on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
State Police Trooper Mathew Myers, dressed as a PennDOT worker, clocks traffic along Route 66 in Washington Township as part of Operation Yellow Jacket on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune Review
State Police Trooper Mathew Myers, dressed as a PennDOT worker, clocks traffic along Route 66 in Washington Township as part of Operation Yellow Jacket on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
A Pennsylvania state trooper waits along Route 66 in Washington Township to pull over speeders on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune Review
A Pennsylvania state trooper waits along Route 66 in Washington Township to pull over speeders on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.

Drivers along Route 66 in Washington Township got a surprise Wednesday when they drove past what appeared to be a PennDOT worker — but actually was a state trooper monitoring their speed.

Police say 25 people were cited and four others were given warnings.

The ruse was part of Operation Yellow Jacket, a partnership between the state police and PennDOT in which state police officers are stationed on the side of the road in a PennDOT truck, wearing a construction hard hat and clothing in an effort to catch people speeding.

"Speed is usually a top factor in all fatalities," said Lt. Rich Quinn, commander with the state police in Greensburg.

PennDOT spokesman Jay Ofsanik said the program allows speed enforcement in areas where it may be hard to fit a police vehicle. And it helps make drivers aware of speed in construction zones.

"It helps us in our work zone safety," Ofsanik said. "The thing we want people to realize is: the next time they're going through a work area where there (are) PennDOT workers and they see somebody on the side of the road in a PennDOT truck, it might not be a PennDOT employee — it could be another trooper."

During the operation, once a driver is clocked over the speed limit, the trooper in the PennDOT truck will radio to other troopers stationed farther up the road the description of the vehicle and how fast it was going. Those other officers in a marked police car pull the speeder over and conduct the traffic stop.

Ofsanik said they chose Route 66 to hold Wednesday's event because there have been three fatal accidents along the road this year.

That's compared to four fatal crashes that occurred there the last five years combined.

"We're very concerned," Ofsanik said.

Washington Township Police Chief Scott Slagle said he welcomes the help to get drivers to slow down.

"This road is notorious for speeding," he said.

Along with speed, Slagle also pointed to distracted driving as a factor in many crashes.

"People are doing too much other than driving," the chief said.

About 8,600 motorists drive the road daily.

Although Wednesday's Operation Yellow Jacket was publicized in an effort to draw safety awareness in the area, troopers could be stationed along any road at any time.

"Our main goal is the safety of everyone on the highways," Quinn said. "We are hoping that this small event might raise awareness for those people traveling on the highway to slow down."

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or on Twitter @emilybalser.

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