Today starts the first of six special programs that puts extra state and local law officers on the highways looking for traffic violations. State Trooper Adam Buck coordinates the Special Traffic Enfforcement Program, or “STEP.” Buck says the focus this week is on getting people to use seatbelts. He says they encourage the agencies to look for other violations too, but he says they get federal funding for keeping the seatbelt use rate over 80-percent. Buck says the programs have worked since the seatbelt law went into effect in 1987.He says we started with a 56-percent usage rate and the last survey showed it was over 81-percent. While you might not think of Thanksgiving as a holiday where people go out and get drunk, Buck says they still find drunk drivers on the road during the Turkey Day holiday.Weather conditions can have a big impact on what happens on the roadways during the holiday. The State Patrol and the Iowa Department of Transportation unveiled an updated website Friday for getting travel information. Patrol Communications Director Daryl Cox says one of the biggest improvements is the speed of getting the information to the public. Cox says the old system had troopers in the field making reports to their various field offices and those where then relayed to Des Moines.The Des Moines office typed up all the road information and then sent it to the National Weather Service and then the weather service sent it to a private vendor on the east coast to make a mape for the website. Cox says the new system still uses the reports from the troopers in the field.He says the six communications centers now can add the information directly onto the website via their computers and the information can be updated every five minutes. Cox says the website service has proved very popular. He says in the snowy winter of 2000-2001, the website had nearly 600-thousand hits. He says the had 597-thousand Internet hits and also over 400-thousand people called their road report telephone line. The new website was announced Friday along with a new 5-1-1 system for calling and receiving travel information.
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