Take care to drive safely this summer
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest Columnist
As the summer vacation season draws to a close, many people across the state will pack up their vehicles and take one last trip before school starts back. The number of Alabamians traveling combined with tourists traveling to reach our beautiful Gulf coast means it's likely that our roads will be crowded. It's important for everyone to drive safely since crowded roads can lead to an increase in accidents.
While the high number of travelers is a concern, the problem is compounded by the fact that Alabama's state troopers are understaffed. There are currently 360 troopers patrolling our highways. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that the state needs at least 600 troopers to properly patrol the highways. Although the new General Fund Budget provides funding for 100 extra troopers, we are still below the amount recommended.
However, you can bet that Alabama's highways will still have a strong law enforcement presence for the rest of the summer, with almost every Alabama state trooper patrolling the highways. Our state troopers will be utilizing their resources as effectively as possible in order to keep our roadways safe.
While we can't immediately cure the number of troopers available, there are several ways that we can all do our part to ensure safe vacation travel over the next few weeks.
A great way to keep our roadways safe is by properly educating those who are the most accident-prone-teenagers. According to a recent AAA and "Seventeen" magazine survey, 61 percent of teens say they have some risky driving habits. 51 percent admitted to talking on cell phones while driving, 46 percent admitted to text messaging while driving, and over 10 percent admitted to using alcohol or drugs before getting behind the wheel.
It's no secret that young drivers are more likely to get into an accident. Inexperience behind the wheel coupled with poor-decision making, leads to crashes and unfortunately, more fatalities. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens, claiming the lives of more than 6,000 children between the ages of 15 and 20. Alabama is particularly vulnerable to this increasing trend.
According to a new study published in the "Birmingham News" Alabama has risen from 15th to ninth in the nation in the number of people killed in wrecks involving young drivers. In 2005, nearly 19 percent of all fatal wrecks involved a teen.
A great way to combat the inexperience of teen drivers is by giving them the driving experience to keep them safe on the road. Driving during daylight, on familiar roads and without other teens in the car will help a young driver gain positive driving experiences without getting distracted.
You can also do your part. By obeying the rules of the road, being courteous to other drivers and refraining from using electronic devices, you help set a good example for a young driver. It's important for all drivers to stay focused, rather than having their attention divided between phones, radios, passengers and the road.
The best way to travel safely is by driving the speed limit. State troopers will be on the lookout for speeders and will not hesitate to give tickets. Moreover, troopers will continue to issue double fines in construction zones. Going the speed limit protects you and those around you.
Another important safety tip is to buckle up. Of the more than 1000 fatalities in our state last year, approximately two-thirds of the victims were not wearing seatbelts.
State law requires that all passengers wear seatbelts on any Alabama road at all times, no exceptions. The law also requires all children to be in proper restraints.
Another safety concern is people driving while tired. With all of the hustle and bustle of the vacation season, some trips may take longer than expected.
Studies have shown that someone operating a motor vehicle on little sleep is just as dangerous behind the wheel as someone who has been drinking. Alabama is equipped with an ample amount of rest areas, so if you're tired and need a break, pull over and take one.
Whether it is being a responsible driver yourself, or encouraging responsible driving from the teen in your life, we can all help keep Alabama's roadways safer, and ensure that the summer vacation season ends safely.