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U.S., Canadian law enforcement team up to enforce safe driving during holiday weekend

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WELLESLEY ISLAND — Motorists on both sides of the border are seeing additional eyes on their driving this holiday weekend, as a part of the “Safety Without Borders” campaign.

Sgt. Bernie W. Kennett, of the New York State Police’s Oneida branch, said the major things he and his Canadian counterparts are looking for are unsafe-driving practices such as impaired and distracted driving, along with ensuring drivers are appropriately using child restraints. Commercial motorists also are being more highly scrutinized given the traffic this weekend. In addition to increased police activity, pamphlets also are being distributed to motorists about the campaign and the expectations for driving.

With the Easter weekend coinciding with warmer spring weather, Sgt. Kennett said a larger number of drivers likely are out on the roads. In their excitement to get moving, many may drop their guard.

“They’re running on autopilot,” he said. “They’re not paying attention.”

Distracted driving, such as using a cellphone while driving, is just as dangerous as drunken driving, Sgt. Kennett said.

June M. Dobson, an inspector with the Ontario Provincial Police, said the combined effort aims to ensure consistency in expectations for drivers.

“They see the enforcement on their side, and they come over here and it’s the same,” she said.

More importantly, she said, “We want to ensure they arrive at their destination.”

That goal is critical, Sgt. Kennett said, given the danger motorists have seen on the road. He said department statistics showed that four people died in New York counties near the border during the holiday weekend last year.

“A fatality here affects people on both sides of the border and vice versa,” Sgt. Kennett said.

The U.S. and Canadian police spoke about driver safety during a media event at the border on Friday. As they spoke about their safety plans, a large number of vehicles formed at the border to enter the U.S., perhaps an indicator of the level of traffic that may be expected for the holiday.

Though the campaign has been held multiple times, Sgt. Kennett said this year agencies from other states and Canada have joined in. New to the effort this year are the Vermont State Police, the Maine State Police, the New Hampshire State Police and the Sûreté du Québec.

“We’re all in this,” Sgt. Kennett said.

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