And By The Way ...;NEWLN:It's a rolling roadblock

March 2, 1981

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Describing it as a unique rolling roadblock to slow down traffic, state police -- cruising two abreast -- plan to lead motorists passing through Louisiana in a 55 mph convoy, with participation mandatory.

And they warn that drivers traveling across the state on Interstate 10 and 12 next Saturday had better not be in a hurry.

In the first such program in the nation, state police are planning an escort at 55 mph from the Texas border to the Mississippi border line in each direction.

Starting from each border, two marked state police cars will drive side by side at 55 mph across the state in what is being dubbed 'Operation DIAL' but is actually a rolling roadblock.

Because motorists are unlikely to try and pass the marked patrol cars, state police spokesman Ronald Jones said Sunday the troopers will lead motorists in convoys at a steady speed.

About 40 troopers and four state police helicopters will be involved in the coordinated experiment, which Jones said will be postponed if it rains or is unusually foggy.

Jones said escort cars would leave each border sometime Saturday morning and reach the other end of the state about five hours later. The eastbound and westbound convoys will probably pass each other at about Whiskey Bay, he said.

Troopers in Louisiana and elsewhere have used local escorts before, but this is the first such cross-state program in the country, Jones said.

'The problem we've been experiencing with the local escorts is that once the troopers leave the interstate, the speeds kick back up,' he said.

The cars will ride two-abreast, starting at the state lines, and cross through state police troops D, I, A and L -- hence the name. As they move across troop borders, new patrol cars will take up the 55 mph drive.

If the project is successful it will be followed up this spring with more cross-state escorts, Jones said.

State police commander Grover Garrison said the plan has been in the works since October.

'We are committed to strict enforcement of the speed limit and this is but one of the means to that end,' Garrison said. He called it a 'high-profile' way to slow drivers down without ticketing them.

Garrison singled out Texas drivers as causing major headaches for Louisiana state police.

'Texas has a rather high rate of non-compliance (to the 55 mph limit) within its own borders and there's a definite shadowing effect when Texans travel into Louisiana,' he said. 'Probably nine out of 10 speeding out-of-staters driving through our state are from Texas and they are a special enforcement problem for us.'

Texas has refused to sign a multi-state plan allowing motorists to sign forms for immediate release once they are ticketed. So each time a Texas driver is ticketed, he or she must be escorted to a courthouse to post bond.

'Processing a Texas motorist takes two to three times as long as citing other out-of-state residents,' Garrison said.

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