Police plan to crack down on aggressive driving in Western Pa. | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Police plan to crack down on aggressive driving in Western Pa.

Patrick Varine
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Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
PennDOT Safety Press Officer Jay Ofsanik discusses the department’s aggressive driving enforcement and education program at the Murrysville municipal building.
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Tribune-Review file
In addition to the potential dangers of any routine traffic stop, police are often in a tenuous situation while talking with a driver, with very little space between themselves and the open road.

Risk is a daily, accepted feature of the job for Murrysville police Officer Ryan Auvil.

But that doesn’t make it any less frightening when a tractor-trailer driver fails to move into an adjacent lane — to “steer clear,” according to current state law — as Auvil is writing a ticket on the edge of William Penn Highway.

“You turn around, see a mirror coming and all you can do is try and stay out of the way,” Auvil said. “It’s terrifying.”

Failing to observe the “steer clear” law for roadside police officers, speeding and tailgating will be among the targets for the third wave of PennDOT’s aggressive driving enforcement and education program.

As part of a national crackdown on aggressive drivers, PennDOT, along with state and local police, will conduct regular enforcement in Pennsylvania through Aug. 25.

“We’ve all seen them,” Murrysville police Chief Tom Seefeld said this week, flanked by officers from North Huntingdon, Plum and Forest Hills. “Drivers who are running red lights, tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes and driving with disregard for other motorists.”

In Murrysville, two officers — including Auvil — are trained as inspectors for the federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.

“We’re looking at what truck drivers are doing but also looking at what other drivers are doing in and around large vehicles,” Auvil said.

And where in the past, Auvil had to make a choice between continuing to write a ticket and pursuing a driver who failed to “steer clear,” Murrysville police have a plan for the current round of enforcement.

“We’re going to use a backup car this time for enforcement if people are not following the law,” Auvil said. “We want to emphasize to people: If you can’t move over, at least slow down until you can.”

Aggressive driving was a factor in 54 fatal crashes in PennDOT’s District 12 — which covers Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties — between 2013 and ’17, PennDOT officials said.

Across the state, 215 local police departments and 17 state police troops will participate in the aggressive driving enforcement campaign.

Last year’s enforcement resulted in more than 50,700 citations and 200 arrests for driving under the influence.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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