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Unmarked cars return

The Department of Public Safety and Gov. Don Siegelman is giving drivers on Alabama roads and highways fair warning that there will be soon be more troopers on patrol, whether the drivers realize it or not.

Siegelman announced Wednesday that five unmarked vehicles will be added to the patrol fleet at the Alabama Department of Public Safety (DPS) to help Alabama state troopers implement a new highway safety project for the Interstate 20 corridor.

The vehicles will be used to patrol the heavily-traveled area, often called "Death Valley," in Jefferson and St. Clair counties.

"The safety and well-being of all Alabamians is extremely important to me," said Siegelman. "The addition of these unmarked patrol cars will make travel on I-20 safer for the people of Alabama and everyone who travels through our beautiful state, and sends the message that speeding, drunk driving and reckless driving will not be tolerated."

Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Doris Teague noted that the program will involve more than just the specified areas, though.

"These five areas are to be funded by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the grants will be used on locations such as I-20," said Teague. "However, (the unmarked cars) will be used statewide in the nearby future."

The I-20 highway safety project will base three of the unmarked patrol vehicles at the Jacksonville Trooper Post. The remaining two cars will be located in Montgomery and made available to state troopers traveling from various parts of Alabama to work on the I-20 highway safety project.

DPS officials will target those traffic offenses that most often contribute to crashes, particularly speeding, following too closely, improper lane changes and failure to signal. Each unmarked patrol vehicle is fully equipped with radar, blue lights, an in-car video system and an Alabama state trooper tag. Troopers operating the vehicles will be in uniform.

"I want to thank Gov. Siegelman for his attention to this important public safety issue," said Maj. Patrick Manning, DPS Highway Patrol

Division Chief. "These unmarked vehicles will be valuable additions to our current patrol fleet, especially in situations involving aggressive driving and road rage."

Each year since 1996, the state has received federal incentive grants for meeting federal guidelines pertaining to blood alcohol content (BAC). In Alabama, a person may be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) if he or she is found to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more.

The program is scheduled to begin this week, and the state has not utilized unmarked cars for traffic enforcement in about a decade.

Three unmarked cars will be on patrol in addition to four marked cars on the two interstates and two other unmarked cars will be based in Montgomery for use statewide.