Washington State Patrol officers increase presence on I-5 near ports

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, February 27, 2015

Now that West Coast ports are up and running, truckers are back at work with backed-up cargo to haul. With the increased truck traffic, the Washington State Patrol is cranking up its presence along Interstate 5 in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Drivers traveling on I-5 in the Seattle and Tacoma region of Washington State can expect to see more law enforcement patrolling the interstate. As more trucks leave the ports to clear out a surplus of cargo, Washington State Patrol officers will be concentrating their patrol on the port area and with more hours.

“We are increasing our visibility and monitoring of the situation,” Sgt. Joe Ross of the Washington State Patrol told Land Line. “We are not specifically looking to enforce and write tickets. That is not our goal.”

Sgt. Ross noted that there will be a two-prong approach: First, safety, including equipment and driver behavior, and second, a larger police presence near the three major ports between Tacoma and Seattle.

Rather than spread out the police force to I-90 and Highway 18, the Washington State Patrol is focusing on the traffic feeding into state interstates and highways, I-5 near the ports.

But the focus is not necessarily on just the truckers. Drivers of all types are being monitored by police and ticketed for violations.

“We all share a fair, responsible percentage as to why these collisions are happening,” Sgt. Ross said.

Sgt. Ross emphasized that all vehicles are equally under the watchful eye of law enforcement. More specifically, they are focusing on violations that contribute the most to collisions, including speed, following too close, unsafe lane changes and failure to signal.

As for truckers, Sgt. Ross noted that commercial vehicle officers have increased the hours of operation for scales. Enforcement officers will be able to check paperwork and equipment more frequently.

Sgt. Ross explained that 68-82 percent of truck collisions were caused by passenger vehicles in previous years. Over time, the percentages started balancing closer to 60/40 split, with passenger vehicles causing more of the crashes.

The timing of increased police visibility with the reopening of the ports is serendipity, Sgt. Ross told Land Line. Last year, fatalities remained steady or declined in Washington State, but crash incidents went up. State police were already looking to beef up patrol in high volume areas with overtime patrol hours and more officers in the area. With increased traffic resulting from a backlogged port, Washington State Patrol decided now was as good a time as any to implement the operation.

According to Sgt. Ross, drivers can expect amplified police presence in the I-5 port area through March and possibly into early April. Police presence will be dependent on port traffic.

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