(WAFF) - Alabama roadways are packed with holiday travelers and state troopers are working to make sure everyone gets where they're headed.
All available troopers will be out on patrol to help prevent traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities.
From now through midnight Jan. 1, troopers will heighten enforcement. They're expecting drivers to obey speed limits, buckle up and/or use child-restraint systems, avoid driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs, avoid driving while texting or distracted in other ways, and avoid following too closely.
Troopers are stressing those safe driving practices this holiday season with a new campaign called #ArriveAliveAlabama.
Last year, deaths on Alabama roads were up 44 percent during Christmas and New Year's so the state wants to reverse that trend in 2017.
"This past Thanksgiving holiday, we had about seven people killed in the state and not a single person was wearing a seat belt. We want to eradicate that during the Christmas and New Year's travel period. Be sure you're wearing a seat belt, as well as your children. Make sure your passengers are buckled up," said Curtis Summerville, a veteran trooper.
Summerville said when you're driving with your loved ones to your holiday destination, their lives depend on what you do behind the wheel.
"During the holidays, you're riding with your family members and from that standpoint, that puts a little more emphasis on the fact that you need to be safe. Your family member's lives are in your hands because any decisions you make in terms of how you drive could affect your family and other folks on the road," he said.
Safety on the roads, he added, has to be a shared responsibility.
"What we want is when people are out there driving, you make it a decision and a choice that this time of year, you're going to make it your goal to drive correctly. You're not going to speed, you're going to wear your seat belt. You're going to come to a complete stop at any stop sign you get to. Those choices you make as an individual could really have an impact on thousands of people," Summerville said.
He explained the risks of texting while driving.
"You're going 88 feet per second at 60 miles an hour. So if it takes you two seconds to respond to a text message going 60 mph, you've traveled 176 feet with your eyes focused down on your cell phone and not looking where you were going. All it takes is that instance for you to be involved in a car crash. So just put the phone down. It can wait," he said.
Other tips from troopers:
- Get plenty of rest before you hit the road and take breaks so you don't get sleepy while driving.
- If you plan to drink, make plans for a designated driver.
- If you see someone who is under the influence, call your local state trooper's office and let them know where that person is so they can dispatch someone to that area.
The goal is simple: to save lives this holiday season.
State troopers were out on Highway 53 in Madison County on Tuesday for a special detail, running radar to catch drivers going too fast.
"Our purpose out here is to be visible and to be seen and to change behavior," Summerville said. "We've noticed an increase in traffic all week. This is what the holidays bring. This is what we expect this."
The Alabama State Trooper Association states this busy time of year on roadways sheds light on their manpower shortage. Trooper levels have dipped 22 percent since 2014.
"We are really struggling with response times to accidents to accidents and stranded motorist calls things like that," said association president David Steward.
Regardless of the statistics, Summerville said troopers are working hard to keep the roadways safe, as well as the drivers traveling on them.
"We appreciate what our legislators have done for us. We just graduated a trooper class and we got some new troopers out of it who will helping us over the holidays. So we're going to do our job," he said. "Whether the numbers are up there or they're down, I think we can always use some additional troopers because Alabama is a growing state. But the troopers we have are doing an excellent job and making sure that people are doing what they're supposed to
be doing over the holidays."
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