Roadways getting dealier

Published 11:35 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

“Are roadways getting more dangerous?” We probably could pick a random telephone number, call it, ask that question and get a positive response, but there’s also supporting data.

The final 2015 numbers aren’t yet available, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates traffic fatalities for the first six months were up 8.1 percent over 2014.

Closer to home, the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama monitors wrecks investigated by State Troopers. Its 2015 data showed a 9.3 percent increase in overall crashes, a 12.3 percent increase in fatal and non-fatal injuries and a 2.9 percent increase in deaths.

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The Christmas/New Year’s holiday travel period was particularly bloody, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency reporting 25 traffic deaths, up from 19 in 2014.

We understand gasoline is cheap right now and more folks are driving. Busier roads mean more chances for accidents.

However, another random phone call likely would find someone with a story of narrowly escaping, or being caught up in, a wreck caused by a hassled, hurried, impatient or oblivious driver doing something – we’re going to go there, even if it bruises some feelings – negligent or brainlessly stupid.

Last week, a road construction worker on Interstate 59 was killed and another injured when a driver – despite ample signage about road work ahead hit a sign and the workers. This week, a man was critically injured in a wreck on U.S. Highway 431 in Glencoe when his vehicle struck a utility pole after two drivers turned in front of him (neither stopped, and authorities are trying to identify them).

A NHTSA study cited by Yahoo Travel found Alabamians have a 1 in 2,889 chance of being involved in a fatal crash and a 1 in 5,673 chance of dying in a crash. (That’s fifth among the 50 states and D.C.)

We all know how to reduce those odds. Obey the speed limits (the word limit connotes a requirement, not an option).

Pay attention to your surroundings. Leave your cellphones alone unless it’s a call that simply can’t wait (and most can). Don’t text and drive even if the apocalypse is unfolding.

Watch out for other drivers, practice a little give-and-take and don’t be a Pharisee as to who has the right of way. (Would you rather be right or wrecked?)

Construction projects have disrupted the traffic flow in several local spots. Hitting the steering wheel and cursing will accomplish nothing; chill out, go with the flow and leave a little earlier.

Most of all, wear your seat belts. Nineteen of those killed in Alabama over the holiday weekend had access to them; only four were wearing them. It’s not just the law, wearing seat belts can cut in half the chances of being hurt or killed in a crash.

Alabama has a lot of drivers; the NHTSA study found 79 percent of the state’s population holds licenses. All of those drivers hold the responsibility to reverse this deadly trend.

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