CPD adds patrol for Memorial Day weekend

Published 5:48 pm Friday, May 28, 2010

As Memorial Day weekend hits, the Clanton Police Department wants drivers to remain cautious and realize just how much of an increase in traffic they could see.

For the second straight year, the CPD received a Highway Traffic Safety grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

This grant reimburses the City of Clanton for putting extra officers on the street to work to reduce traffic crashes and target aggressive driving behaviors.

This comes just in time for Memorial Day weekend, historically a high volume traffic event.

CPD Chief Brian Stilwell said his department will have extra patrol officers out over the long weekend in an effort to make sure everyone has a safe holiday.

The CPD only reported three minor accidents on the last Memorial Day weekend.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety State Troopers may perform a special highway safety blitz, stationing at various safety checkpoints throughout the state. The CPD may also participate if asked.

Officers will check for driver’s licenses, seatbelts, insurance and for anyone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Stilwell said Interstate 65 traffic is particularly heavier on holiday weeks, especially between exits 205 and 212. He said the increased traffic is great for the Chilton County area, providing a nice boost for the economy as people stop to eat and visit. But the extra officers on duty only want to make sure accidents are reduced to a minimum.

CPD officers will be specifically assigned to monitoring weekend traffic without having to answer any other calls of service. Typically, Stilwell has four police officers on duty who stay busy patrolling from one call to another with little time to watch for aggressive driving.

“We can now target certain areas where we have problems,” Stilwell said. “Just having that police car, it changes people’s driving habits.”

Stilwell believes the increased police presence improves people’s driving on the congested roads. He encourages drivers to be patient this weekend, especially if they’re required to enter a safety checkpoint.

“It’s all being done to keep everybody safe,” he said.

AAA Public Relations & Marketing Manager Clay Ingram said the state troopers’ and police officers’ only goal is to reduce accidents and save lives with their safety blitzes. Ingram said road congestion will be particularly tight for the holiday weekend. He said drivers’ reaction times might even decrease as cars run closer together, but that’s something they should anticipate.

There are two important aspects for drivers to keep in mind this weekend, Ingram said, which are advanced planning and focus.

“Drivers should think ahead and plan ahead a little bit before you go,” he said. “Add time to your travel schedule. It’ll take you longer to get anywhere you’re planning to drive to this weekend. We all know that feeling of being late getting where we want to go. That can lead to stress and frustrating when the traffic’s not moving like you want it to. Planning ahead will not only make you a little more relaxed on the trip, it will also help you from making bad decisions.”

Ingram said that driving at a slower speed even helps reduce gas costs.

He also encourages people have their cars checked by professional technicians before they hit the road for long distance trips.

That would involve checking tires, fluid levels, belts and hoses. If people don’t take their cars in for checks, Ingram thinks they should at least grab a tire gauge and check themselves. Uninflated tires affect gas mileage and are also more prone to blow out or go flat.

Ingram said drivers should reduce as many distractions as possible, including cell phones, food and noise.

“Give the cell phone and music duties to someone else in the car,” he said. “Anything to free the driver up will make your trip a lot safer. We’re always trying to make people aware of potential dangers out there.”