police

Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean the dangers of traveling are gone.

To help combat unsafe driving, law enforcement agencies will continue stand by until after the new year to help promote traffic safety. In Alexander City, police chief Jay Turner said more officers have been working with increased holiday shopping and traffic and officers have been more visible for two reasons.

“We do have more officers working the holidays,” Turner said. “We have more on patrol especially in the areas with shopping but it also has the added benefit of having more on patrol for traffic, especially drunk driving and distracted driving.”

In 2018 nearly 37,000 people died nationwide in automobile accidents according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to a study by personalinjurysandiego.org, Alabama had one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities in 2018 at third with 19.5 deaths per 100,000 citizens. Alabama was also rated eighth highest in traffic fatalities related to alcohol.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) has had more state troopers patrolling the state’s highways over the holidays to bolster enforcement efforts to prevent traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities.

“Our goal is simply to save lives,” ALEA’s Secretary Hal Taylor said in a release.

The extended holiday travel period started 12:01 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20 and goes to midnight Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. During this time, ALEA urges motorists to assist troopers and their law enforcement partners across the state in promoting safety on all Alabama roadways. The agency also is participating in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign, designed to curb alcohol- and/or drug-impaired driving.

When so many are traveling at this time of year, Taylor said safety is key. Taylor encourages everyone to obey speed limits, insist everyone in the vehicle buckle up, do not drive while under the influence or while distracted and do not follow too closely. 

“These driving behaviors are among the most deadly,” he said. “Let’s all do our part during the holiday season, as well as the rest of the year, to #ArriveAliveAlabama.”

Turner said his officers will still be on the lookout for unsafe drivers.

“We are still going to be out,” Turner said. “I suggest drivers and passengers be smart, plan ahead and use designated drivers when needed.”

Turner said having a conversation with friends and family about holiday outings can prevent dangerous situations by having a place to sleep nearby. He suggested making sure a designated driver will be available if someone plans on drinking and there is not a place to stay. 

“It can be as simple as someone volunteering to do it for friends for the evening,” Turner said. “If that is not an option, call a family member or friend that did not drink.”

Heightened seasonal traffic safety activities are made possible through grant funding from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). Additionally,  for the safety of motorists and construction and maintenance crews during this season, ALDOT will suspend temporary lane closures on Alabama interstate highways from noon Tuesday, Dec. 31, to 6 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.