Road safety can always be improved

Published 1:11 am Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just a glance in the state news headlines yesterday says much about the danger of roads: A teen killed while crossing the road, two killed and five injured in a three-vehicle accident, a man killed in a pickup truck accident.

Those were all real headlines, and it is always depressing to see. But what can be done to reduce the amount of highway deaths and injuries?

Chilton County Engineer Tony Wearren can tell you what factors are often present in fatal crashes. In the majority of fatal crashes, someone was turning left, which means they had to cross traffic.

Counties receive yearly reports from the State of Alabama that show the number of crashes that occur at individual intersections and specific strips of roadway. Intersections where at least four accidents have occurred in a year’s time are eligible for safety funds.

The intersection of County Road 24 and County Road 59 was identified as the No. 1 site in the county for accidents in 2008, not counting state highways and city streets. The county has already taken measures to improve safety at the intersection by placing reflective rumble strips and oversized traffic control signs there.

It’s good to be aware of these things, but when it comes to highway safety there is always room for improvement. For example, roundabouts are replacing the familiar “T” intersections in some places. These seem to be more efficient in that they eliminate the need to stop or turn left. While this would probably be more expensive to build, it could save lives.

But one thing Wearren said was that speeding is the cause of many crashes. While most county roads are designed to be traveled at 45 mph, vehicles are known to travel much faster. This has been proven by recorded data.

As long as people continue to speed 10, 20 and 30 mph over the speed limit, we will continue to see unnecessary deaths on our highways.