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Remember Travel Safety this Holiday Season

December 13, 2006

Remember Travel Safety this Holiday Season


Christmas brings to mind traditional images such as greenery and lights, candy and presents, and Santa and his reindeer. However, the holiday season comes with another tradition, too--traveling to see relatives. In the coming days and weeks, many Alabamians will be making the yearly trek to visit family. And because of so many folks on the road, hurried drivers, and bad conditions, the trip to grandma’s can prove to be quite dangerous.


Alabama’s roads are more hazardous during the holidays. According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, there were 23 traffic deaths in Alabama over the holiday travel season last year. This year the state estimates that there will be 28 more fatalities. The holiday season encompasses both Christmas and New Year. The Christmas travel period is a 78-hour period beginning at 6:00 PM on Friday, December 22 and ending at midnight on Christmas Day. The New Year travel period begins at 6:00 PM on Monday, December 29 and ends midnight on New Year’s Day.  


While the high number of travelers is a concern, the problem is compounded by the fact that Alabama’s state troopers are understaffed. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that the state needs at least 600 troopers to properly patrol the highways, but we only have around 300.


Enrollment in trooper training has increased and budgets have improved incrementally, but our troopers still need more funding. However, spiraling costs in healthcare, prisons, and other vital government responsibilities sap the budget, and make it difficult to adequately fund our state troopers.


Yet our troopers make the most of what they do have, so you can expect the law enforcement presence will be as strong as possible this holiday season. By using the technology and strong planning, the Department of Public Safety has identified areas where enforcement will be the most effective.


While we can’t double the number of troopers in time for this holiday season, there are several ways we can all do our part to ensure a safe holiday.


Although Alabama isn’t know for harsh winters, our roads do become icy from time to time, and icy roadways mean more dangerous roadways. If the road is icy, be sure to slow down and exercise caution. Be extra careful on bridges, as they tend to accumulate ice more easily than our roads.


A safe way to travel this holiday is by driving the speed limit. State troopers will be on the lookout for speeders during the holiday season and will not hesitate to give tickets. In addition, 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 23 fatalities in our state last year, 18 were not wearing seatbelts. State law requires that all passengers wear their seatbelts on any Alabama road at all times, no exceptions. The law requires that all children be put in proper restraints, so make sure the little ones are safe and secure. 


Another safety concern is people driving when they are too tired. With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday, 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 has an ample amount of rest areas, so if you’re tired and the holiday meal is getting to you, pull over and take a rest. Shaving a few minutes off your Christmas travel time is not worth risking your life, or the lives of loved ones.


Use care on the roadways, and enjoy family and friends during the best time of the year.  Happy travels and happy holidays.