UPDATE 6/12/13 @ 11 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) --Increased patrols on the West Virginia Turnpike recently led to more than 70 commercial vehicles being pulled over and more than 100 citations issued to drivers, West Virginia State Police say.
Troopers say most of the citations were for speeding. The patrols focused on a stretch of the turnpike that has had several recent tractor-trailer accidents – mainly between Barrier B (Pax) and Barrier C (Chelyan) in a 60 mph zone with numerous curves.
Troopers assigned to that region (Troop 7) have been encouraged to increase their road patrol presence on this section of the turnpike in an effort to reduce speeds and help prevent accidents.
According to state police, more of these types of patrols will be conducted on the turnpike in the future and will be expanded to include both commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles.
Officials had the Division of Highways perform a series of friction tests to see if there's an actual problem with the road surface.
There's only one technician and one truck that does these tests in West Virginia. Steve Marshall has been doing it for nearly 25 years.
"This machine will simulate a hydroplane," technician Steve Marshall said. "There's your 300-gallon water tank and it feeds back through this line and it feeds out through your nozzle -- it's based on your speed. The faster you run, the more water you put out."
In the past week there have been at least five wrecks involving tractor-trailers crashing near the Sharon Exit in Kanawha County.
"Most cases, they're driving too fast for road conditions or the terrain they're on," Greg Barr with the Parkways Authority said. "They're professional drivers. They should be able to negotiate these things a do a better job at it."
Parkways Authority Officials blame many of the troubles on speed. However, they ordered the friction tests to be sure.
A special truck and trailer hit the pavement spraying water on the road and then locking a wheel of the trailer.
Marshall took measurements every 500 feet and is compiling the results.
He says any of the slickness could be caused by wear, diesel fuel or other contaminants on the roadway.
"A couple times it was raining really hard and they were still doing 60, 70, sometimes 80 miles per hour," Marshall said.
The Parkways Authority says flashing lights and bright signs are already in place to warn drivers. However, if the friction tests finds slick spots, crews will replace and resurface the top layer of asphalt to provide more traction on the road.
The test results are expected to be back later this week.
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A quick stop at any rest area Saturday indicated the high volume of traffic on the road.
"We're in the busy season of travel, and it's very congested," said Greg Barr, general manager of the West Virginia Parkways Authority.
Mixing those crowds with tight curves and rainy weather spelled disaster this week, with crashes on the Turnpike daily.
Friday afternoon, two collisions happened just minutes from each other and stalled traffic for six miles. A UPS truck tipped over near the Sharon exit while a U-Haul truck smashed into a guard rail.
It's a pattern that's putting officials in action and drivers on high alert.
"I think a lot of it is driven by that initial rain mixing with the asphalt oil, and drivers going too fast for road conditions," Barr said.
Officials say they're responding by stepping up state police patrols and testing the road surface for friction quality.
But in the end, they say drivers' lives are in their own hands.
"We don't want anyone to get hurt out there, and the state police don't either," said Barr. "So if it takes some tickets to make their point, they'll do it."
Paul Manning is one Turnpike traveler who says he doesn't take any chances.
"You have to pay attention, you have to expect the next turn," he said. "Watch the speed on those turns and obey the signs."
Officials say they'll conduct the friction testing early next week and have the results almost immediately.
They say they'll adjust the surface of any road section that doesn't pass.