State authorities discuss deaths from wrong-way accidents

Published 9:17 pm Friday, December 14, 2012

A new study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board reports that, on average, 360 people are killed each year due to wrong-way collisions on U.S. roadways.

The Safety Board met Tuesday to discuss these findings after 11 people were killed last week in wrong-way collisions and nine were seriously injured. The board discovered intoxicated drivers caused the majority of these collisions.

As for Dallas County, Sgt. Steve Jarrett with the Alabama Department of Public Safety said there were no wrong-way fatalities in the county for 2011, 2010 and 2009.

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The Alabama Public Safety Department was able to give a report on wrong-way fatalities that occurred throughout the state.

According to statistics by the department, 20 wrong-way fatalities occurred in the state in 2011 — a significant decrease from 2009 when there were 35 reported fatalities. Of the 20 reported in 2011, five of those occurred on U.S. Highways, five occurred on state highways, two on county roads and the rest occurred on various interstates in Alabama.

“One reason for the decrease in the amount of [wrong-way fatalities] in Alabama might be because ALDOT began a Median Barrier Program, which is designed to prevent vehicles from crossing over into oncoming traffic lanes,” Jarrett said.

The Median Barrier Program started in 2003 and ALDOT estimates that some 200 lives have been saved since the inception of the program.

“The median barriers are concrete, or with today’s technology they have cables that run along the medians,” Jarrett said. “We also have troopers working smarter these days with what we call Data Driven Enforcement.”

Data Driven Enforcement is when troopers follow statistics of where the most collisions occur and also where D.U.I.s occur and they “saturate those areas with patrols.”

“I would say the majority of the wrong-way fatalities that occur in the state are from drug and alcohol related incidents,” Jarrett said.

He reported that eight of the wrong-way fatality incidents in Alabama throughout 2011 were cited as drug and alcohol incidents.

“There were a lot of ‘unknowns’ on alcohol and drugs as well, so that number is probably underestimated,” Jarrett said. “The most common other circumstance was speed.”