Traffic fatalities highest since 1972

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

MONTGOMERY &8212; The number of traffic fatalities in Alabama for 2006 has at its highest level since 1973,

a statement released by the Alabama Department of Public Safety reported last week. The report states that in 2006, there were 1,208 traffic-related fatalities, with 831 of those occurring in rural areas.

Doris Teague, a public information officer for DPS, said in Marengo County alone there were eight deaths last year, with at least one of them being alcohol-related.

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In order to combat this increase, the DPS has partnered with the District Attorney&8217;s office on a safety initiative called &8220;Take Back Our Highways.&8221;

The new initiative, Murphy said, will place all available troopers &8212; from all divisions and all ranks &8212; on patrol duty Aug. 13-17 in an intensive highway safety effort. Additional &8220;Take Back Our Highways&8221; intervals will be scheduled throughout the year.

Every available state trooper will be in uniform and on patrol during the program, including the addition of approximately 200 troopers normally assigned to duties other than patrol.

During the increased trooper presence, officers will target primary violations that cause crashes and contribute to more severe crashes, Murphy said. These include speeding, failure to yield the right of way, following too closely, driver inattention

and DUI.

Not all the extra officers will be on interstate highways. Murphy said the assignments will vary from area to area, depending on what type of roads are experiencing the most problems.

Alabama had a similar crackdown in August 2004, when Gov. Bob Riley announced that county and city officers would join state troopers in patrolling interstate highways to try to reduce traffic deaths.

The officers wrote hundreds of extra tickets, but Alabama ended the year with 1,156 traffic deaths, up nearly 15 percent from 2003.

Murphy said &8220;Taking Back Our Highways&8221; won&8217;t be a one-time initiative. He said more special enforcement periods will be scheduled later in the year to try to make sure motorists don&8217;t slow down for one week and then return to their old habits.

During the crackdown, some of the officers will be in unmarked cars, but all officers will be in uniform. Taking notice of some past cases of fake officers pulling over motorists, Murphy said anyone who is pulled over by an unmarked car and is concerned whether a real officer is behind the wheel can call 911 or highway patrol to verify the identity.

Phillip Rawls of the Associated Press contributed to this report.