Patrols increase for Spring Break

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 20, 2006

Spring break and heavy traffic go hand in hand. For proof, one must look no further than U.S. Highway 43.

With several schools closing their doors for the annual vacation yesterday, the city of Demopolis saw a massive influx of traffic. Demopolis Director of Public Safety Jeff Manuel said they are always aware of the complications they will face when schools close their doors and traffic numbers grow during the spring.

“This is a pretty good way to get to the beach with U.S. Highway 43, and this time of year we really do start to see an increase in traffic,” Manuel said. “It starts now, and is consistent pretty much through the summer. The traffic starts to come in on Thursday, and by Friday, we really see an increase.”

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How drastic the increase is, Manuel said, depends on how many schools have their spring break holiday at the same time. The game plan, he said, is always to let people know officers are in the area.

“We try to have a presence so people will know we are there,” Manuel said. “By doing that, people know we are there and if there is an accident, we can have someone on the scene quickly.”

Local officers also have backup from Alabama State Troopers. The Alabama Department of Public Safety stated in a release, troopers would concentrate enforcement activity in problem, high-traffic areas or “hot spots” like U.S. Highway 43. They will target traffic violations such as speeding, driving while impaired and following too closely. They also will focus on enforcement of Alabama’s safety belt and child restraint laws and all other traffic laws during patrols and checkpoints.

Though it is not a matter of breaking the law, Manuel said another red flag for officers is different driving styles.

“People here and people from other places drive differently,” Manuel said. “So when the traffic increases, we also see an increase in accidents.”

Community Traffic Safety Program coordinators throughout the state, in conjunction with the Department of Economic and Community Affairs Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Section, will provide funding to support enhanced patrols and increased roadway safety during the spring break period.

Public Safety Director Col. W.M. Coppage encouraged young drivers especially, to drive safely at spring break, practicing courtesy toward other motorists and obeying all traffic laws. He urged them to buckle up, heed posted speed limits and to avoid driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs at all costs.

Coppage reminded teen drivers of the deadly consequences of driving under the influence and stressed that underage drinking is a crime.

“No level of alcohol is acceptable for drivers younger than 21, and the penalties for impaired driving include losing the privilege to drive, possible fines and jail time,” Coppage said.