Elizabeth Regan
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Elizabeth Regan)

Connecticut State Police joined troopers from throughout New England on Monday as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy kicked off a 5-day regional speeding crackdown at a commuter parking lot in Windsor.

“New England Drive to Save Lives” is a coordinated law enforcement effort from all six New England states.

Connecticut State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Shane Hassett said the initiative will include extra patrol coverage along Interstate 95 and 91 through Friday. It’s the first phase of an initiative designed to “saturate” interstates with citations for speeding and failing to wear a seat belt as a way to help prevent highway fatalities, he said.

The stops will occur throughout the week at all times of day and night, Hassett said.

Malloy told reporters the initiative is different than typical traffic safety mobilizations set to coincide with the heaviest seasons for travel and road work.

“I think we’re stepping it up,” he said. “Because we’re working with the federal government and because we’re accessing a special program, border to border, Canada to New York.”

Malloy said federal money will cover some of the costs of this week’s traffic safety efforts.

Connecticut State Police Col. Brian F. Meraviglia said those driving over the speed limit or without a seat belt should be prepared to be stopped by a trooper. “It’s unfortunate, but if motorists decide to skirt the law, they must have to be prepared to pay, perhaps with their wallet or perhaps with their life,” he said.

Asked if the initiative would encourage Connecticut troopers to warn departments in Massachusetts or Rhode Island if an errant speeder is heading their way, the governor said that wouldn’t be the ideal scenario.

“I would prefer we capture him in Connecticut so we can fine him here,” Malloy said.

Malloy said the program, with its “stop speeding before speeding stops you” tag line, is a response to traffic statistics that show speeding is a factor in 30 percent of fatalities on the state’s roads and highways.

He said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that a crash sustained at more than 65 mph is more than twice as likely to result in death than a crash at 45-50 mph.

The effort will also enforce the use of child safety seats.

The New England initiative is the latest offshoot of a national effort set forth by the International Association of Chiefs of Police three years ago, according to Retired Ohio State Patrol Col. Kenneth Morkel. Now a traffic safety consultant with the government, Morkel said the scope of the collaborative model in New England is unique.

The national program until now has focused on one interstate at a time, either border-to-border or coast-to-coast, he said. Up to 15 states have worked together at any given time.

This is the first example of an entire region focusing on two interstate systems, Morkel said.

The extra patrols on I-95 and I-91 come at a time when there are those within the state police organization who say there are not enough on-duty troopers to respond to emergencies in some rural areas during certain shifts.

Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews told the Appropriations Committee last month that there is insufficient state police patrol coverage, especially in the northwest and northeast corners of the state.

Hassett said the second phase of the initiative is likely to bring another week of stepped-up patrols involving speeding and seat belt citations to other parts of Connecticut later in the summer.

According to a press release from the regional office of the national highway safety administration, the second phase will include all New England police departments willing to participate and will involve state highways and secondary roads.

“We plan to expand this to all interstate highways,” Hassett said. “Certainly, 395 runs up through the northeast corner. Northwest corner, not so much highway up there.”