ELAINE HARRIS SPEARMAN COMMENTARY: There's no need for speed on Alabama's highways

Speed kills. I am not speaking of an illicit drug, although the one that bears that label is equally as dangerous. The rate of speed at which travelers on Alabama roadways drive is hazardous to our health. We have enough chronic diseases, pandemics and other accidents to cause our deaths. We do not need speed and car crashes to be at the top of the list.

The drivers seem not to care as they zoom around you with a menacing glare as you drive the speed limit. I’m sure you have looked in the rearview mirror as a sense of horror gripped you while wondering if the car or truck speeding upon your rear was going to be able to stop in time.

As motorists speed, they see no need for a turn signal. Automobile manufacturers could probably save billions by eliminating this very necessary addition to the automobile.

Many readers of a certain age can remember seeing adult drivers putting their arms out of the window to signal to other drivers what their intentions were.

Speed limit signs are largely ignored. Deer crossing signs go unheeded as speeding vehicles, unable to slow down soon enough, leave the deer carcass on the roadside to be handled by the local government. Need I tell you that the hit results in a huge dent in the driver’s vehicle, if not a frightening run off of the road?

Newspapers are chock full of car crashes that have resulted in some very sad deaths. Two very recent crashes on Alabama roadways stick with me. One was a head-on crash that left two killed and two others injured, including an infant. The other left a child motherless. The accidents are still under investigation as to the cause.

Speed belongs on the Talladega Superspeedway where my favorite driver, Bubba Wallace, scored a victory recently. It is because of Wallace’s courage in facing the longtime issue of Confederate flags at the speedway that I now feel that I can attend a racing event without being faced with the overpowering stench of all that the flag represents.

Speed is not the only cause of car crashes. Drive Safe AL listed the top ways to avoid a crash. No. 5 is “drive the speed limit.” The 16-19 age group is listed as the “highest risk” for crashes. As the accidents are investigated, “driver inexperience” is cited as the cause in many of the deaths. The 2019 AL Crash Facts state that “a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get in a crash that a non-texting driver.”

Lest older drivers get smug about the age group that is cited, you have but to think of your own experience with older drivers: both males and females talking on cellphones with one hand on the steering wheel, even turning corners with one hand that no longer has the manual dexterity of youth.

The state Strategic Highway Safety Plan indicates that a traffic crash was reported every 3 minutes and 18 seconds in 2019. There were 930 people killed in 851 fatal crashes. In 2019, a person was killed in a traffic crash every 9 hours and 26 minutes.

The reports also indicate that most Alabama crashes occur within urban areas at a 77% rate, while 59% of fatalities occur in rural areas.

Law enforcement is finding that there are new driving issues that are resulting in potential deaths of drivers, first responders and passengers. That cause is driving around police barriers where flooding has occurred or is likely to occur with water deep enough to be a threat to your ability to drive through it.

The occurrences have stepped up with recent storms and is causing law enforcement to step up the pleas of “turn around, don’t drown.”

With all of this information as a backdrop, there is a serious need to slow down on Alabama roadways.

Meighan Boulevard, Rainbow Drive, George Wallace Drive, Whorton Bend Road, Garmon Road (cut through from Southside), Alabama Highway 77 and Interstate 759 are among the highly traveled roadways in and around Gadsden where drivers seem to think they are on the Talladega Superspeedway.

A slew of speeding tickets may serve as a reminder that speed kills.

Elaine Harris Spearman, Esq., a Gadsden native, is the retired legal advisor to the comptroller of the City of St. Louis.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Elaine Harris Spearman discusses highway speeders

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