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The carnage on Cullman County roads is rising at an alarming rate.

Traffic deaths shot up in 2014, 2015, 2016, and now — halfway through 2017 — have nearly equaled last year's total. Law enforcement officers have their hands full trying to get to one accident after another. The question arises as to whether this is just normal statistics or something out of the ordinary.

Looking at the circumstances of many of this year's fatal wrecks, as well as recent years, out of the ordinary and normal causes are both to blame.

An official with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which includes Alabama State Troopers, said speed remains the main culprit in many fatalities. Speed, however, is combining with factors such as drivers not wearing seatbelts, alcohol and drug consumption and the epidemic of texting and driving.

Troopers and other law enforcement officers who work fatal wrecks and accidents with injuries often determine speed kills and injures more people than any factor. But as the ALEA official noted, distracted driving is a high second on the list of causes. Attempts to conclusively prove the impact of distracted driving is difficult. But most officers see enough evidence to believe the use of cell phones while driving is a much greater factor than anyone wants to admit.

This year a series of horrendous accidents have cost the lives of 18 people in our area. Some of the wrecks were single-vehicle fatalities, others were head-on collisions with the same results.

It’s past time to sound the alarm. Cullman County drivers working with law enforcement must be more proactive and become engaged in campaigns aimed at better driving habits that can deter accidents.

Troopers last week conducted a crackdown on drivers in Blount County after a rash of wrecks. The effort netted more than a hundred speeding tickets, a few other driving violations, two methamphetamine busts and the apprehension of a sexual abuse suspect. Maybe the tickets will do some good and convince more people to think and slow down. We welcome the same kind of program in Cullman.

We all understand Cullman roads are more congested, especially as our community grows. In many areas, the traffic flow has outpaced the road expansion and there are no real prospects that this will change anytime soon.

A series of speeding tickets may have an impact on some, including those who like to use our streets as a drag strip. And, a continued education push about using cell phones while driving by law enforcement, schools and employers will help. But it will take a conscience effort by every driver – young and old – to stop the rising death toll.

We all agree that speeding and texting while driving are dangerous. But as long as many motorists continue to push the limit, endangering innocent people, the deaths, serious injuries and sorrow in their wake will not go away. Bottom line: speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are poor reasons to lose a family member, friend or neighbor.

It takes more than a strategy by law enforcement to stop the carnage on our roadways. We must all be proactive and obey the traffic laws, including ignoring the text alert while driving – not picking up the phone may mean the difference between life and death. And, one more reminder, use your seatbelt – just remember, Click It or Ticket.

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