Eddie Russell said the old saying, “taking your life into your own hands when you drive” may be a cliché, but it’s true.
According to statistics, that’s especially true if you drive between 3-7 p.m. or on Saturdays.
“There are more people driving now than ever before and there are more distractions,” said Russell, program coordinator for the North Alabama Traffic Safety office in Tuscumbia. “More people on the road and more distractions just translate into more chances for crashes and unfortunately more chances for fatalities. That’s just statistical math.”
Reports from the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama show that in 2010, Saturday was the deadliest day of the week with 146 of the state’s 862 fatalities occurring that day. Those same statistics point out during the four-hour window of 3- 7 p.m., 198 fatal crashes happened in 2010.
State public safety officials said the 2011 data has not yet been tabulated.
The statistics show that most crashes in 2010 happened between 3-6 p.m. on Fridays.
That year, there were 23,254 crashes in the state on Fridays. Of those 27 percent, or 6,432, took place in those three hours.
“That makes sense,” Rogersville Police Chief Terry Holden said. “Our heaviest travel time is in the mornings and in the late afternoon, and especially on Fridays.”
More crashes took place on Fridays in Colbert and Lauderdale counties. Colbert had 287 wrecks on Fridays in 2010, while Lauderdale had 370.
Franklin County’s day with the most wrecks was Saturday, with 98.
“No matter what day of the week it is, it all adds up to a lot of crashes in the region, too many,” Russell said. “You don’t want to become a statistic, so you have to drive like your life depends on it.”
The Shoals is dissected by several state highways, along with U.S. 43 and U.S. 72, major arteries going north and south and east and west across the state.
“There’s thousands of cars that come through here every day,” Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said. “And every one of them are in a hurry.”
Holden said he can look at the traffic on U.S. 72 and know just about what time of day it is.
“The traffic just gets so congested and everyone is always in such a hurry,” he said. “If you stop someone for speeding or erratic driving, nine out of 10 of them say they’re late for something.
“People know traffic is heavier now than ever. So, why don’t they leave just a little earlier and give themselves plenty of time.”
Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan said Fridays usually are when most people try to get home as quickly as they can to start their weekend.
“So, they’re more than likely going faster than usual, and have their mind on what they’re going to do when they get home, not on driving and just getting where they’re going,” he said. “Seat belt usage has helped with lowering the number of fatalities overall, but now we have to get across the message of being a defensive driver, paying attention to what’s going on around them — basically staying focused on driving.”
Hargett said that goes back to people being in too big of a hurry.
“And when you get in a hurry, you’re not as careful as need be. You tend to take chances,” Hargett said.
Russell said with more and more “gadgets” in vehicles today, it’s easy to become distracted from driving. He said he almost ran into the back of a car because of a device he found in a new truck he had bought.
“I eat, breath and sleep traffic safety. I know what you are suppose to do when driving and what not to do when driving,” he said. “And I almost became a statistic because I got distracted.”
Jesse Norris, with the Center for Advanced Public Safety, said the study shows some glaring numbers.
“It’s said that numbers mean more than words. Hopefully, people will see these numbers and they will take them to heart,” Norris said.
“We’re all human, we’ve all got hundreds of things on our minds at all times, but when we get into a car to drive, we need to have one thing on our mind and that’s driving,” Russell said. “We have to limit the possible distractions and stay focused on the job at hand, which is driving. That’s the only way to not become a statistic.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.
There were 862 people killed in 790 crashes.
Of those fatal crashes, 49.4 percent occurred at night.
There were 86 fatalities involving motorcycles or moped riders.
One traffic crash was reported every 246 seconds.
One person was injured in a traffic accident every 13 minutes 32 seconds.
One person was killed in a traffic crash every 10 hours 10 minutes.
There were more than 38,000 people injured in automobile crashes in the state.
Alabama — 128,383 total
Totals by days of the week: Sunday, 12,401; Monday, 18,543; Tuesday, 18,946; Wednesday, 19,306; Thursday, 19,463; Friday, 23,254; Saturday, 16,469
Colbert County — 1,412
Sun. 123, Mon. 209, Tues. 188, Wed. 215, Thur. 221, Fri. 287, Sat. 178.
Franklin County — 573
Sun. 43, Mon. 83, Tues. 82, Wed. 85, Thur. 96, Fri. 86, Sat. 98.
Lauderdale County — 2,052
Sun. 166, Mon. 345, Tues. 280, Wed. 310, Thur. 324, Fri. 370, Sat. 257.
Source: Department of Public Safety and the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama.