State Police focus on I-10 for Labor Day weekend

State Police investigated eight traffic fatalities over Labor Day weekend in 2012, and Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson said he is determined to have zero fatalities this year.

“No one, no one has to die this year,” Edmonson said at a news conference Wednesday outside State Police Troop A headquarters on Highland Road.

Troopers also issued more than 1,300 speeding tickets and more than 600 citations for seat belt violations last year during Labor Day weekend, Edmonson said as he announced State Police’s involvement in an eight-state initiative aimed at reducing injuries and fatal crashes on Interstate 10 over the holiday weekend.

The operation, dubbed Operation “Safe Corridor, 10-8 on I-10,” will begin at 6 a.m. Friday and last until midnight Monday.

“This is historical because this is the first time we’ve had all eight states participating in a combined enforcement effort,” Edmonson said.

In police code, “10-8” means “in service.”

The initiative will feature more than 600 State Police troopers, or about two-thirds of the statewide roster, patrolling the I-10 looking for speeders, distracted drivers, seat belt violators and drunk drivers.

Edmonson said State Police is expecting a record number of drivers on Louisiana highways for the holiday, which he said ranks as the second most-traveled holiday weekend behind Thanksgiving.

Troopers, police and sheriff’s deputies from Louisiana will join law enforcement from California, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida in the interstate effort.

“To me it’s about visibility,” Edmonson said. “When people see police, they slow down, they don’t do the things that they normally do when they don’t see the police.”

According to data from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, there were 331 accidents for Labor Day weekend 2012 that resulted in injuries or fatalities, 37 of which involved alcohol.

That number was down from Labor Day weekend 2011, when there were 364 accidents that resulted in injuries or fatalities, 54 of which involved alcohol.

Over the years, each state has implemented some plans to patrol the highways over the Labor Day weekend, Edmonson said, but this is the first year that each state coordinated its plans with other states.

Officials learned what worked and what did not work in each state, so they could formulate similar plans, Edmonson said.

State Police will use state funds and federal grants to pay troopers overtime during the operation, he said.

Trooper First Class Jared Sandifer said troopers also will be searching for drug traffickers and human traffickers and locating and arresting fugitives.

Air support will also be used during the operation, Sandifer said.

“The overall objective for this initiative is zero fatal crashes and criminal apprehensions on I-10 for this four-day period,” Sandifer said.