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Authorities see increase in wrecks on I-65 in Chilton County

Published 4:24pm Friday, October 4, 2013

Unable to patrol

Both Fetner and Stilwell agreed one of the biggest hurdles municipal police departments face in Chilton County is not being allowed to enforce the traffic laws on I-65.

“It is debilitating,” Stilwell said.

Fetner said municipal agencies in cities with a population under 19,000 were banned in 1996 from ticketing speeders on interstate highways.

A former member of the Alabama Legislature, Senate Rules Committee Chairman Lowell Barron, got the Legislature to pass a law that banned the police officers from ticketing speeders.

Barron pushed for the restrictions after he was stopped by police officers twice, once in Clanton, driving more than 90 mph while commuting on interstate highways.

Stilwell and others throughout Chilton County are currently trying to have the law removed to allow for municipal agencies to fully enforce traffic laws on I-65.

“The interstate was built in the 1950s and it was outdated when it was built,” Stilwell said. “It can’t handle the number of cars that travel on it and we are a county in the middle of the two largest cities in the state. We have 39,000 cars that travel on that road each day.”

One of the biggest challenges Stilwell and others face is convincing the Legislature that agencies desire to patrol on I-65 is not an effort to boost revenue.

“Our crash numbers are going up because more people are getting involved in wrecks on the interstate,” Stilwell said. “It would not boost our revenue to patrol the interstate because it actually requires more of our revenue to work a wreck. It is just difficult convincing people that we would like to patrol to keep the portion of I-65 that runs through Chilton County safer for everyone.”

Chilton County State Sen. Cam Ward said a bill that would repeal restrictions placed on municipal agencies in certain cities has been introduced every year since 2002.

Ward said he has personally introduced the bill a few times but each time there was resistance.

“There have been different groups who are afraid that speed traps would be put up if the bill was passed,” Ward said. “I personally believe that police officers should be allowed to patrol on the interstates with a town the size of Clanton.”

Ward said the bill would likely be reintroduced at the upcoming legislative session in January 2014 but there is still opposition to the bill.

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