(CBS News) Safety officials in all 11 states along the 29,000-mile stretch of highway known as Interstate 80 have increased their police presence across the roadway as part of the "Interstate 80 Challenge" to eliminate fatalities.
I-80, the second-longest stretch of road in the United States spans from the Bay Bridge in San Francisco to just short of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey. It was the site for 350 fatal accidents between 2009 and 2011, based on national statistics. Iowa alone suffered 17,000 crashes over a ten year period.
Patrick Hoye, the chief of the Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau, suggested states take the challenge together after identifying similar crash data patterns throughout the country.
"In Iowa...so many of our fatalities occur there [on I-80]. Then we looked at other states and we saw the same trends. We decided we would try to reach all the states along I-80 to work with us to do a multi-state, multi-agency traffic enforcement operation. They all said, 'I-80 is the same for us,'" Hoye told USA Today.
From July 24 to July 31, the combined effort of increased police forces along I-80 in California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey will closely monitor drivers. Along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the goal of this "More Cops, More Stops" campaign is zero fatalities for the rest of July.
CBS News' correspondent Don Dahler experienced the effort first-hand, driving on I-80 in North Bergen County, New Jersey. He reported the most dangerous time to drive on I-80 is right now, at the height of the summer vacation season. The leading cause for crashes is drivers and passengers who choose not to wear seatbelts.
"We are after the five deadliest things that kill people which are speed, seat belt, DUI drivers, and drowsy drivers," Utah Col. Daniel Fuhr told Dahler about the challenge.
States are required to pay police officers more for extra hours and man power. But, Dahler reported, if the extra costs save lives organizers say it is worth it.