12 Days of Safety: ALEA warns travelers against distracted driving

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2023

With 15 lives lost on the road during the Thanksgiving holiday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency began a campaign on Dec. 22 called 12 Days of Safety. Each day, they will release travel safety information to make sure drivers make it to their destinations safely.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the holidays, but we want people to do it responsibly,” said Recruiting/Public Affairs Coordinator Sgt. Jeremy Burkett.

Burkett said there were 15 fatalities during the extended holiday travel period of Thanksgiving alone. However, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are busy travel times and often end up being busy times for distracted and impaired driving.

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“We’ve traditionally seen that in and around Christmas Eve, in and around Christmas day,” Burkett said. “Sometimes late that night, people want to get out and enjoy the festivities.”

Distracted driving is any time the driver has their attention on something other than the road. This can mean texting, eating or drinking or fiddling with the radio or navigation system while driving.

Unfortunately, driving after consuming any substances has proven to be lethal.

In 2022, ALEA investigated 5,005 crashes that were a result of impaired drivers, and 260 individuals lost their lives. This year, the number of DUI or impaired driver crashes has decreased to 4,398 and involved only 154 lives lost. 

Burkett said he hopes to see that trend continue as the new year approaches. 

Being impaired doesn’t just mean consuming too much alcohol. It can also mean distracted driving or driving under the influence of anything that impairs your ability to effectively operate your vehicle. Burkett said many people taking certain prescription medications may be affected more strongly by alcohol. 

“If you feel different, then you’re going to drive different,” Burkett said. 

Burkett also said many people traveling out of state for the holidays forget to keep up with vehicle maintenance and account for weather conditions. 

“You’ve been driving in South Alabama for the past seven or eight months and not even thought anything about it — now, you need to make sure we have antifreeze in your radiator,” Burkett said. “That way, you don’t have to worry about your engine freezing up.”

In addition to antifreeze, good tires make a big difference in a colder or wetter state during the holiday season. Burkett said it’s good practice to make sure all tires, including the spare, are inflated and that there is a tool kit in case of a flat tire. 

“It’s gonna be a long weekend and Christmas right after,” Burkett said. “So you have a lot of people really starting to travel in the next several days, and we just want people to be prepared.”