In response to a slew of fatal and near-fatal accidents on Route 24 in recent weeks, Massachusetts State Police are beefing up patrols in the area.
State Police announced Thursday morning that 11 additional patrols will be on Route 24 and Interstate 195 from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. on Friday into Saturday and again on Saturday into Sunday for the remainder of the summer. The extra patrols will be in addition to regular patrols out of the Middleboro and Dartmouth barracks.
Police hope the additional patrols will crack down on unsafe drivers.
"If you will not drive safely for your own sake, please remember you have no right to put anyone else's life in danger," Superintendent Colonel Timothy Alben said during a press conference at the Route 24 Burger King rest area in Bridgewater.
He said the additional patrols would be paid for with State Police operating funds for "problem-related events."
"This is a problem," he said.
Alben said between Jan. 1, 2011 and July 17, 2012, 11 accidents on Route 24 resulted in a fatality and five resulted in serious bodily injury. According to statistics compiled, 31 percent of the accidents were drugs or alcohol related, 19 percent were a result of marked lanes or failure to yield violations and another 19 percent were resulting from excessive speed.
Many accidents were after 2 a.m. and "sometimes as late as four or five in the morning," he said.
"At two, three, four in the morning, there's not a high [traffic] volume," he said. "...It's a whole different world out there after midnight."
At 4 a.m. on July 15, Mansfield teenager Lisa Banat and John LaChapelle, 44, of Tiverton, RI on the highway in West Bridgewater.
Alben said two nights later, State Police made two separate arrests for wrong-way drivers on Route 195. This past week, two more were arrested for the same offense.
The West Bridgewater accident was preceded by a slew of accidents in the same area.
This includes one on July 12 where , a 12-year-old from Norton, . The single-car rollover also hospitalized two women from Norton.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Administrator Frank Depaola said the state is finishing a $12 million resurfacing project on Route 24, leaving the roadways in top condition.
"Because of the fresh surface it may be enticing for some to increase their speed," he said. "We ask that they don't."
Depaola, Alben and State Police Troop D Commander Major Anthony Thomas reiterated the importance of driving safely on the roads to avoid such accidents.
Thomas said all drivers should refrain from driving impaired, avoid being distracted from phones or text messages, stay attentive to other drivers on the road and wear a seatbelt.
Alben said the extra enforcement could remain after summer months if necessary. Police initially chose the summer to bulk up because of more outdoor activities, social gatherings and motorists traveling the area for vacation, he said.
"It's easy to do it in the summer, but the problem doesn't go away," he said.