The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 25, 2013

Speed the No. 1 factor in Ala. traffic fatalities


State statistics show there were more than 27,000 non-fatal and fatal crashes reported in Jefferson and Shelby counties in 2011 alone.

Factors such as alcohol and drug use make fatal crashes a random variable, Brown said. Some factors are strong multipliers of fatal crash risk.

Plus, for every 10 mph increase in speed, the chances double of a person dying in a crash, Alabama State Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett said.

In 2011, the latest year with the most complete statistics, there were 114 fatal crashes in Jefferson and Shelby County. The 2011 total marked an increase of 22 percent compared with 2009, the lowest point of the five-year time period with only 93 fatal crashes.

Basically, that was caused by the recession and people driving less," Brown said of 2009.

For the five-year period, about 19 percent of the crashes involved drunk drivers, statistics show.

Day by day, more fatal crashes occurred on weekends. The most -- 110 -- happened on Saturdays, followed by 85 on Fridays and 84 on Sundays. Tuesdays had the fewest with 59 recorded crashes.

Breaking the day into four-hour segments, more occurred between midnight and 4 a.m. - 113 -- than any other period, statistics show. There were 98 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., the next highest period.

Federal statistics also account for "first harmful events," or what occurred in the crash that led to property damage and deaths.

Trees were involved in about 13 percent of crashes and 10 percent involved pedestrians. Between 2007 and 2011, 55 percent of fatal crashes in the database were single-vehicle wrecks.

Alabama typically ranks higher in traffic fatality rates than other states.

In 2010, the state's traffic fatality rate was 1.34 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled -- an improvement compared to the prior year but still above the nationwide average of 1.11.

Statewide, more crash fatalities occur in rural areas, with factors such as speed, alcohol and response times of emergency rescue coming into play, Brown said.

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