Extra troopers on I-5 for holiday weekend

EVERETT — In his nearly quarter century on the force, Washington State Patrol Sgt. Kirk Rudeen has not seen a bigger commitment of resources to keep a stretch of highway safe from dangerous drivers.

As many as 80 troopers from two State Patrol district headquarters will concentrate on a section of I-5 in south Snohomish and north King counties during the Labor Day weekend. The focus is on 20 miles from south Everett to Northgate, an area where 38 collisions have occurred during the holiday weekends during the past three years.

The hope is the high visibility of troopers will make drivers extra vigilant.

“It comes down to the old military axiom that you have to have boots on the ground to have an impact,” Rudeen said. “This isn’t about writing a ton of tickets. What we really want is for people to see us out there.”

For four days, a state airplane will be flying over the freeway, spotting cars being driven aggressively or erratically.

Troopers who specialize in catching drunken drivers and dangerous criminals are being deployed, So, too, are drug-sniffing dogs. Arrangements have been made to swiftly reach judges by telephone to get approval for search warrants.

A decked-out motorhome — a “mobile impaired driving unit” in trooper parlance — is stationed south of Everett near Silver Lake. It’s equipped with three machines to test blood-alcohol concentrations and is prepped to process and hold suspected drunken and drug-affected drivers. There’s even a phlebotomist at the ready to take blood samples, a move aimed at gathering evidence quickly to get troopers back on the road faster.

“We want this weekend to be fatality-free,” Rudeen said.

A State Patrol data analysis has pinpointed the stretch of I-5 between Everett and north Seattle as a high-risk area during the Labor Day weekend.

Troopers began their emphasis after the Seattle Seahawks preseason game late Thursday night and will stick with it through Monday. Several cars could be seen pulled over around midnight Friday along the northbound shoulders south of Everett.

The State Patrol expects a heavy volume of traffic Saturday with the University of Washington Huskies opening a rebuilt stadium and the Bumbershoot music festival drawing large crowds to Seattle.

The emphasis is much broader than DUIs. Among other things, troopers will be on the lookout for speeding, improper lane changes, tailgating, texting, illegal cell phone use and people not wearing seatbelts.

Rudeen said he hopes people take time to plan their travels and are patient on the road.

“We know this is the last hurrah weekend of the summer,” Rudeen said. “We are not hoping to be a killjoy on the weekend. We just want people to be safe.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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