Cops team up to provide enforcement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 2, 2004

REGION – Last year, eight people died on Alabama roadways during the Labor Day holiday, five of them on rural roads. Local police are teaming up with state troopers to curb the number of fatalities expected this year.

“We’ll be targeting several things that will make our roads safer, including seatbelt violations, intoxicated drivers, following too close – anything to reduce accidents,” Eutaw Police Chief Reginald Spencer said.

All local agencies will be working this weekend to enforce laws, and agencies will be backing each other up, Spencer said.

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“We’ll be conducting safety checkpoints, saturation patrols and line patrols,” he said. A line patrol, he said, was a cooperative effort between adjoining agencies during which each agency patrols a particular road from jurisdiction line to jurisdiction line.

“We’ll cover a road from the Eutaw city limits to the county jurisdiction, then Greene County deputies will pick up where we leave off and patrol it to the Demopolis city limits, then Demopolis police will pick it up there,” he said.

“The overall idea is to cut down on crashes, which will cut down on the number of fatalities and injuries,” Spencer said.

Livingston Police Chief Ashley Welborn said his officers will be conducting safety checkpoints as well, and urged motorists to make sure they have a valid drivers license, registration (tag receipt) and proof of insurance with them at all times.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people come through these checkpoints and don’t have a drivers license or insurance, have warrants out on them or have drugs on them,” he said.

Welborn said while they will be looking for intoxicated drivers, they will also be looking for those under the influence of other controlled substances, something he said has been more prevalent in recent years.

“Fourth of July, we didn’t have any DUIs (at the checkpoints), but we had several drug arrests,” he said.

For those traveling, the interstates are not a safe haven for violators either, according to Department of Public Safety Director Col. W.M. Coppage.

“All available troopers will be on duty to participate in special enforcement details, including line patrols, saturation details and checkpoints, in addition to routine patrols,” Coppage said. However, he urged motorists to try and make those troopers’ jobs easier and their travels safer.

“Deaths on Alabama’s roadways are increasing this year at an alarming rate,” he said. “Alabama’s state troopers are doing everything they can to save lives on highways, but we all have a stake in highway and traffic safety. That is why we ask that all motorists do their part, too.” ”

He said motorists can help by buckling up, obeying speed limits and other traffic laws and – most important – drive sober.

“We also ask motorists to drive defensively and courteously, and to focus on safety throughout the holiday weekend,” he said. “Labor Day is the last major holiday of the warm-weather travel season, and it traditionally brings heavy traffic.”

Coppage said troopers will partner with other law enforcement officers throughout Alabama in “You Drink and Drive. You Lose.” The targeted safety campaign aims to reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths by warning motorists about the dangers of impaired driving and targeting impaired drivers during patrols and checkpoints.

“It’s estimated that up to half of all traffic deaths are alcohol related,” Coppage said, noting that it does not have to be that way. “Such deaths are 100 percent preventable, if motorists choose to drive responsibly. The penalties for DUI are severe in Alabama, but the cost in lives lost and injuries suffered surpasses any fine or other penalty under the law.”

The Department of Public Safety estimates that 15 people may die as the result of traffic crashes in Alabama during the 78-hour Labor Day holiday travel period beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, and ending at midnight Monday, Sept. 6.

Last year eight traffic deaths occurred during the 78-hour period, five on rural roads and three in urban areas. At least three of the deaths were alcohol related, and six of the crash victims were not using safety restraints.