Alabama Troopers: Buckle up during record-high July 4th travel

Updated: Jul. 2, 2019 at 5:18 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More Americans than ever recorded by AAA are traveling this Independence Day- nearly 49 million people.

That's why Alabama State Troopers are sharing important travel safety tips.

"There's going to be an awful lot of traffic this weekend. We have extremely good weather and we expect people to be on our highways. Keep in mind, troopers are going to be out there. We're going to be vigilant," said Trooper Curtis Summerville with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. "We want to encourage people to slow down and do what they're supposed to be doing on the road. We're not out there just to give people tickets. We're out there to change behavior."

With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday this year, it is expected to be busier than ever, with travelers taking advantage of the extra long weekend.

A record-breaking 48.9 million people are making plans to honor the red, white and blue with a getaway this year. Overall travel volume for the holiday is expected to rise 4.1% over last year, with an additional 1.9 million people planning road trips and other vacations to celebrate America’s birthday, AAA said.

For the record-high 41.4 million Americans who will travel by automobile this Independence Day, INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts drivers could face delays as much as four times a normal commute, with Wednesday, July 3 the worst day on the roads.

Theresa Free is excited for her Fourth of July getaway. Her family hit the road for Panama City Beach and she already had safety on her mind.

“You have to pay attention to yourself but also you have to watch those other drivers too. Just always be cautious,” she said.

It’s exactly the kind of mindset Alabama State Troopers encourage drivers to have. They urge drivers to wear their seat belts and make sure their kids are buckled up too.

“One of the worst parts of a law enforcement officer’s job is having to go out and make a death notification, especially in a holiday period. Oftentimes, these deadly crashes occur because people simply don’t put their seat belts on,” Trooper Summerville stated. “You certainly cannot atone for what the other drivers are going to do, but you can for what you do in a vehicle. So again, put those seat belts on.”

If you're going to have a drink, make sure you have a designated driver.

Another thing troopers encourage drivers to do is get enough sleep before you get on the road.

“People work that day, they’ve been working eight hours and they’ve only had a few hours of sleep and then they try to drive 10 hours to wherever they’re going so make sure you have enough rest,” Summerville added.

If you're having a problem with your car, troopers ask that you pull over, turn your emergency flashers on and put your hood up to signal that you need help.

Also, remember Alabama's Move Over Law if you see emergency vehicles on the side of the road. You need to get over to give them space to work.

If you can’t get over due to heavy traffic, you have to reduce your speed to at least 15 miles lower than the posted speed limit.

Troopers say parents serve as an example for their children when they're in the car so avoid texting and driving.

“Distracted driving is a big problem this time of year so we don’t want to see anyone involved in a car crash because you’re on that phone. Remember, certain states have hands free laws. If you get into Tennessee or Georgia, you cannot physically hold a phone in your hand. You have to have some type of earpiece or Bluetooth device to talk on the phone,” Trooper Summerville explained.

And if your plans take you to Tennessee, the Highway Patrol says troopers will be aggressively enforcing distracted driving and other laws beginning July 3-5 to keep people safe.

The July 4th holiday period is one of the state's more traveled holidays.

"We don't want any family to have this time ruined by tragedy. We take this very personal if it happens on our watch. Our message is, there is no text or phone call more important than life. If you have to answer your phone, pull over and do so. The Tennessee Highway Patrol wants every family to enjoy the July 4th holiday with family, food and fireworks," said Sgt. Chris Hannah.

THP reminds drivers that the Hands Free Law is now in effect. It is a moving violation to hold an electronic device with any part of your body.

AAA Alabama cautions party-goers against getting behind the wheel after drinking. To save lives and promote safe driving this holiday, AAA Alabama and wrecker services across the state will again offer Tow-for-Life. This public service program provides free towing services to keep impaired drivers off the road.

This is the 33rd year for the program, and the service is provided to AAA members and non-members alike. The program begins at 6:00 PM on Thursday, July 4th and continues until 6:00 AM on Friday, July 5th.

July 4th is traditionally one of the most dangerous days of the year to drive, according to AAA.

To receive free towing on July 4th:

  • Call AAA Alabama at 1-800-222-4357 (1-800-AAA-HELP) and ask for Tow-for-Life. The vehicle must be operable to qualify for a free tow.
  • The operator will ask for the driver’s name, home address, telephone number and exact location of the vehicle and driver.
  • A tow truck will be dispatched and upon arrival the wrecker driver will ask for identification and the keys to the vehicle.
  • The vehicle will be towed to the home of the driver or owner if the owner is present.
  • Towing is provided at NO CHARGE up to 10 miles.

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