Stronger enforcement key to no fatalities

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Labor Day fatalities were nonexistent for the Black Belt counties, but statewide, five people died on rural roadways, a trend the Alabama Department of Public Safety said is on the rise.

“Last year between January and August, 451 people died on rural roads,” Martha Earnhardt, public information officer for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said. “Rural traffic deaths year to date is 547. That’s an increase of more than 20 percent over last year.”

Earnhardt said her office is looking into a variety of reasons, but she said the primary factors in the increase are believed to be a lack of enforcement.

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“We’ll have to look at the numbers, we don’t have any hard information to support this theory right now, but when troopers are responding to wrecks and patrol hours are cut, you simply don’t have that enforcement or visibility.”

Earnhardt said they are waiting for more information, but said in the meantime “we are trying to make an effort to reverse that trend.”

As for this year’s Labor Day fatalities, Earnhardt said, the number is lower than the 15 that were expected, but looks to be on target for last year.

“We had eight fatalities last year, five on rural roads and three on urban roads,” she said. “So far this year, we do not have the urban numbers, but it looks like this year we will meet, but not exceed last year’s numbers.”

Of last year’s numbers, Earnhardt said three of the eight fatal accidents involved alcohol, and six of the eight killed were not wearing their seatbelt.

She said the best way to combat the rise in fatalities is a combination of enforcement, education and common courtesy.

“Enforcement is not the only solution,” she said. “We also have to have a widespread knowledge of the issues and how drivers can make the roads safery.”

She said drivers need to be aware of the issues, but they also need to comply with the laws.

“Speeding is such a factor in fatal wrecks. Drunken and impaired driving is a factor as well, but those are factors within our control,” she said.

“Many people go on the idea that accidents happen. Well, yes they do happen, but so many of them don’t have to because we have means at our disposal that can prevent them.”