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Letter: Drunk Driving on Rural Centre County Roads Is a Problem

on April 01, 2019 4:15 AM

Thankfully, the chances that an impaired driver will be pulled over along Pennsylvania’s major highways are greater now than in years past, and the penalties are stiffer. But our rural, single-lane township roads, with their associated low traffic, scarce streetlights and absent municipal enforcement, are a different story. 

As a resident and active hiker, this writer walks daily along stretches of East Mountain Road in Worth Township (off Route 322 between Port Matilda and Philipsburg). It is dismaying the amount of street-side litter that accumulates, particularly discarded alcoholic beverage cans and bottles. It is not uncommon that Monday morning brings newly tossed containers — most disturbingly, beer cans of the same brand, 6 in number, cast off at roughly half-mile intervals. Is there a lawful way that such a pattern could be generated? Indeed, these occurrences have become more frequent since the closing of the Philipsburg State Police barracks, the policing agent for the township. The nearest points at which to purchase beer are in Port Matilda and Philipsburg, which makes it probable that vehicles are being driven along stretches of Route 322, in addition to East Mountain Road, by individuals who are under the influence. The situation can’t be much different along the rural stretches of Rush, Taylor, or Huston Townships.

Who cares? East Mountain Road only serves about 40 families in Worth Township. Don’t the state police have better things to do than patrol lonely country roads? Ask that of West Penn Power, which last month replaced a telephone pole snapped off at bumper height along East Mountain Road, and ask the resident whose mailbox was run down in the wee hours of a January weekend. We can hope the perpetrators’ vehicles were damaged — the only retribution they will likely face.

Until the long arm of state enforcement embraces rural Centre County, impaired driving, and all its accompanying evils, will continue. This concerned citizen is assured that a sobriety checkpoint along East Mountain Road on any Saturday evening has a high probability of enhancing our public’s safety. Yes, the absolute number of vehicles screened would be small, but the proportion of those vehicles being operated illegally is likely higher than on any other Pennsylvania thoroughfare. No less, the posting of even an occasional checkpoint along some of our forgotten rural roads might go far to remind high-risk takers of the proximity of apprehension.

James Bloom
Worth Township

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