Massachusetts state officials launched a campaign Tuesday to protect workers in roadway repair zones amid an alarming string of crashes in recent weeks involving suspected drunk drivers.
The effort combines public education against drunken driving with increased law enforcement at the work sites, both on highways and city streets.
According to Jeff Larason, director for the highway safety division in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, federal money will be used to step up law enforcement patrols in about 150 cities and towns across Massachusetts and to launch the public education campaign against driving drunk.
The "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign will start Friday and operate until Labor Day on Sept. 5, and is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Though the campaign is not new, it is the first time agencies are being urged to focus on increasing patrols in work zones.
About $1.6 million was distributed to the state and some local police agencies through a separate grant for increased patrols on work sites during the summer. The agencies must use the federal funds by Oct. 1.
Last month, State Police increased patrols near highway work zones, leading to the issuance of 2,500 traffic citations, most of them for speeding, according to State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon, who noted the heightened attention led to the arrest of six suspected drunk drivers.
Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett said the long-term goal is to ensure that troopers, who often provide security for highways crews, and the workers themselves do not have to risk their lives while doing their jobs.