Media & Public Relations

Contact: Carl DeFebo
May 19, 2009

Pa. Turnpike Prepares for Brisk Memorial Day Weekend Traffic

Highway safety expos set for Wednesday at the Allentown, Sideling Hill rest stops.

HARRISBURG, PA (05/19/2009; 1438)(readMedia)-- With close to 2 million vehicles expected on the state's toll roads this Friday through Monday, Pennsylvania Turnpike officials are stressing safety during Memorial Day weekend, sponsoring "Take-a-Break" safety events at two of its busiest travel plazas and encouraging travelers to buckle up and look out for motorcycles on the highway.

"Memorial Day is among the busiest holidays on the turnpike, and -- given economic conditions -- we could see higher than normal traffic volumes this year if more people choose to limit their travels to destinations a bit closer to home," said Turnpike CEO Joe Brimmeier. "So we are urging holiday travelers to focus on behaving in a safe, smart and patient manner as you drive the state's highways and byways this weekend."

The turnpike will host "Take-a-Break" safety events May 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Allentown Service Plaza on the Northeastern Extension and the Sideling Hill ServicePlaza on the east-west mainline. The theme is, "You're never alone on the PA Turnpike," and motorist-safety forces will be on hand to demonstrate how they watch out for turnpike travelers. Highway maintenance crews and equipment, the turnpike's State Farm Safety Patrol, State Police troopers, turnpike fire and EMS companies and authorized-service providers will assemble apparatus and personnel on site to help teach people of all ages about the importance of safety.

"We invite everyone to stop in and check out the fun and educational events to remind travelers of our year-round commitment to safety on the turnpike," CEO Brimmeier said. "When you see, first hand, all the safety professionals who are on the road to protect you, you'll begin to understand what we mean when we say, 'You're never alone on the PA Turnpike.'"

The Allentown plaza is between the Lehigh Valley and Quakertown exits on I-476 and the Sideling Hill facility is between the Breezewood and Fort Littleton exits on I-76. The two travel plazas, which had been completely renovated and reopened in 2008, are accessible to traffic from both directions.

And speaking of safety, the turnpike urges all motorists and passengers to wear their seat belts, not only for the hectic holiday weekend but every time they are in a vehicle. "Wearing a seat belt can save your life if you are involved in a crash," said Cpl. Rick Dean of the Pennsylvania State Police Troop T. "And if that's not reason enough to make the right decision, this summer you'll have an added incentive to buckle up: the Click It or Ticket crackdown."

The Pennsylvania Turnpike will again participate in the National Click It or Ticket campaign. To encourage more people to buckle up, Troop T will be enforcing the state's seat-belt law on the turnpike system during the Click It or Ticket campaign through June 7. Under Click It or Ticket, a motorist who is stopped and cited for a traffic violation will receive a second ticket and second fine for not buckling up.

In the spirit of Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month this month, the turnpike offers these tips for drivers sharing the road with motorcyclists:

* Look out for motorcyclists on the highways. Motorcycles are small and may be difficult to see. Allow more following distance - leave three or four seconds when following a motorcycle. Many times, it is difficult for motorists to estimate the speed of a motorcycle.

* Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.

* Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle. Motorcycle signals usually are not self canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.

* Respect a motorcycle as a full-size vehicle with the same rights and privileges as any vehicle on the roadway. Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width as the motorcyclist needs the room to maneuver safely in all types of road conditions.

To better plan ahead for holiday travels, Pennsylvania Turnpike motorists can get real-time information about roadway conditions via the Turnpike Roadway Information Program, or "TRIP," by visiting or calling 1-866-976-TRIP. Officials advise motorists headed for the turnpike to check out conditions before they leave.

In case of an accident, breakdown or medical emergency, motorists can utilize the yellow emergency call boxes on the shoulder. In such an event, it is crucial that the vehicle be moved from active travel lanes and every effort is made to keep a safe distance from moving traffic. Cellular phone users can dial *-11 or 1-800-332-3880 to receive aid. Be prepared to give your milepost location and direction of travel.

During the busy holiday, maintenance and construction work will be suspended beginning 3 p.m. Thursday May 21 through 6 a.m. Wednesday May 27, and all lanes will be open to traffic except in emergencies. In the event of emergency lane restrictions, the turnpike will activate its Variable Message Signs and Highway Advisory Radio System (1640 AM) to inform motorists of conditions. Beginning Thursday afternoon through Monday evening, motorists should be aware of the potential for slow-moving traffic and heavy volumes. When driving in slow traffic, motorists should turn on headlights, maintain speed and keep ample distance from the vehicle ahead.

As an extra safety precaution, over-dimensional commercial vehicles (trucks exceeding 8-1/2 feet wide, 85 feet long, 13-1/2 feet high or 100,000 pounds gross weight) will be restricted from traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike beginning sundown Thursday May 21 to sunrise Tuesday May 26.