The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

March 25, 2013

Speed the No. 1 factor in Ala. traffic fatalities

(Continued)

A growing problem that is difficult to quantify is distracted driving.

Until recently, whether a driver was using some type of electronic device at the time of the crash wasn't recorded, Brown said.

AAA Alabama spokesman Clay Ingram said he expects to see those numbers trend downward in coming years because of two strengthened driver-related laws.

Alabama passed tougher graduated driving laws for teenagers in 2010 and the state's texting-while-driving law went into effect in August 2012.

The graduated laws place new drivers under a veil of restrictions during their first year such as no handheld device use and no nighttime driving -- a high crash-rate period for all drivers.

"I think all those things do make a difference and will help bring those numbers down," Ingram said.

It's a targeted population, but one studies show needs extra enforcement.

The Governors Highway Safety Association's recent survey concluded Alabama teen driver fatalities increased 300 percent during the first six months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011.

Even with all the technological changes that have made vehicles more able to withstand crashes, Jarrett said proper use of two basic elements can enhance safety: the seat belt and the gas pedal.

Slowing down gives more reaction time to respond to sudden events on the road. State crash statistics in 2011 from the Center for Advanced Public Safety show 60 percent of Alabama drivers who died in crashes were not wearing seat belts.

"If people could see what we see, they would definitely wear a seat belt," Jarrett said.

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