U.S. 231 becoming a health hazard

Published 11:45am Sunday, August 11, 2013

While U.S. Highway 231 through Wetumpka can’t compare to Birmingham’s infamous Malfunction Junction, it would likely qualify for nicknames like Collision Corridor or Accident Alley. Vehicle mishaps from minor fender-benders to fatal wrecks occur with relative frequency on the heavily-traveled roadway.
Wetumpka Police Chief Celia Dixon said the majority of accidents stem from a handful of bad driving habits.
“Motorists need to slow down – speed is almost always a factor,” she said. “Distracted driving is also a common cause of wrecks. I’ve seen women driving with their knee on the steering wheel while they were putting on mascara. Texting or looking at something else on their cell phone is also a huge distraction for drivers.”
Deputy Police Chief Anthony Crenshaw said officers from the Wetumpka Police Department worked 64 traffic accidents in July alone. He estimated that more than half of those occurred on 231.
“This is just a personal observation, but in the past month I’d say as I was driving I saw another 30 situations that could quickly have become accidents,” he said. “People play with their phones or radios, primp in the mirror or look for something in the car. When they do those things they aren’t paying attention to the road and an accident can happen in seconds.”
Crenshaw said the WPD responded to 607 total traffic accidents in 2012. Officers have worked 374 between Jan. 1 and July 31 this year.
Dixon offered the following advice to motorists to help cut back on the number of accidents on 231:
•Slow down. Obey speed limits but also use common sense, for example be on the lookout for other motorists pulling onto the highway.
•Avoid distractions, including but not limited to phone calls, texts, holding animals, putting on makeup, reading, checking a GPS, rubbernecking, adjusting the car radio, etc.
•Use traffic signals whenever possible to cross 231. Drivers can enter and exit most businesses along the corridor at traffic signals with only slight detours.
•Don’t use the middle turn lane on 231 as a long-distance driving lane. Dixon said motorists should move into the middle turn lane at the broken striping nearest where they intend to turn.
•Pay attention to yield signs. Dixon said drivers need to know that yield signs don’t convey the right to merge into oncoming traffic. She noted that a yield sign means a motorist must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Vehicles controlled by a yield sign need to slow down or stop when necessary to avoid interfering with conflicting traffic.
•Don’t proceed through a caution (yellow) light at a traffic signal if there is sufficient space to stop safely.
•Always stop when the traffic signal is red. Never attempt to pass through an intersection ahead of traffic that has the right of way.
•Don’t weave in and of traffic or follow too closely.
Dixon also stressed that motorists should use seatbelts and make sure appropriate child restraint devices are in use.
“One other tip that may help some drivers is for them to make sure to pull all the way up to the painted white stop bar on the road when they are at a traffic light,” she said. “The loops under the road that tripped lights are being replaced by cameras to trip the lights. So if there’s a camera at an intersection, if won’t pick up a vehicle and make the signal change unless the car is at the stop bar.”

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