Our View: Traffic safety is no laughing matter
A comedian performing at the Ritz Theatre in Talladega Friday night poked fun at rural life when he confessed to violating a major rule of driving in a small town. “I didn’t know,” he said, looking down and shaking his head in shame. “I used a turn signal.” He got even more laughs when he told about being advised to get that taillight fixed, “the one that keeps turning on and off.” “Yes sir, officer,” he said.

At a comedy show, jokes about drivers’ mistakes are popular because we can all identify with the topic. Outside the theater, the serious consequences of driving errors become a more serious matter, and it seems we’ve had more than our fair share.

Twice in recent weeks, drivers being pursued by law enforcement ran through stop signs and hit other vehicles — killing one innocent driver and injuring others.

Monday’s 18-wheeler accident on Talladega’s courthouse square was one of the more dramatic incidents we’ve seen recently. The truck made a hard left turn and fell over on its side. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries — but the thoughts of what might have happened when a 22-and-a-half-ton coil of steel fell off a flatbed trailer are frightening. We can imagine huge sighs of relief that it didn’t roll through the law office right next to where it fell.

As we understand it, the driver drove right past the 275 Northern Bypass that would have taken him to his destination without coming into town at all.

But like a lot of us, he might have been nervous about driving on the bypass. Since the northern portion opened last November, there have been more than twenty accidents on the bypass — by our count, 14 of them were at the Jackson Trace Road intersection. Several of them have left people with very serious injuries.

More than likely, the truck driver didn’t know where the road went. Simply because it is a new road, maps and digital devices aren’t likely to show that it’s there, or where it goes. Additional road signs could help drivers understand where the new road goes, and help them decide which route works better for them.

We’re not quite sure what the problem is with the Jackson Trace Road intersection. Perhaps drivers don’t realize they’re crossing a four-lane divided highway, and don’t look carefully in both directions for both lanes. Perhaps it’s a speed issue, with limited visibility at the crest of a hill affecting judgment. We hope it won’t take fatalities before some type of remedy is attempted there.

Completion of the bypass was shelved for quite some time, but it will help relieve congestion as more of the through traffic uses the bypass to skip around the series of turns and traffic signals in town.

Tremendous strides have been made through the years in building safer vehicles and roads, and marking roads more effectively. But there’s always room for improvement, and we hope the problems in our area are getting the attention they deserve.

© 2013