With summer in full swing, road trips are happening all over the state. Whether you're a family with young children or college students seeking a brief respite before the next term, there is a lot you can do to lower your risk of an car accident on a road trip.
Dangerous Roads in Alabama
Some factors, of course, are inevitably against you. We can start with the fact that tourism in Alabama has grown 7.7 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel. That has resulted in a swell of traffic on our roads. Although most travelers are heading to the beaches in the South, that's still a lot of traffic traveling through the state, including Auburn, Mobile, Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery. Many travelers even make these locations a destination stop for their important historical position.
However, our roads and highway infrastructure is not in the best shape to absorb all this traffic. A 2015 Infrastructure Report Card gave Alabama a C- (to be fair, America overall had a D).
For example, 20 percent of Alabama's 16,000 bridges were deemed structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (a number that is expected to soar in the coming years as infrastructure continues to age). When it comes to roadways, Alabama has about 102,000 miles of public roads, and vehicle travel has increased by 54 percent from 1993 to 2003. The majority of this traffic is concentrated on federal and state highways maintained by ALDOT. Congestion is expected to affect 17 percent of all roads by 2035. A booming tourism industry will hasten that, resulting in a heightened risk of an car accident.
Safer Summer Road Trips
Vacationers heading out on summer road trips will know all this ahead of time, and should know the key is to give themselves as much time as possible to get where they need to go. Congested roads lead to close calls between vehicles, road rage and aggressive driving. It's exacerbated when you're running late, tired or hungry. If you're on a road trip, carefully map out your destination and make sure you plan to stop at reasonable intervals to rest, stretch, switch drivers, decompress and take phone calls.
Before heading out, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition. Dangerous and defective vehicles have prompted unprecedented recalls in the auto industry in recent years, crossing the 50 million threshold in 2016. If you own your vehicle, run the VIN number through the NHTSA's recall search and find out if your vehicle is under recall. Note that while rental car companies aren't allowed to rent vehicles with outstanding recalls (as of June 1, 2016), used car dealerships may not necessarily be held to that same standard.
You should also make sure your vehicle is checked out by a qualified mechanic before embarking on your trip. Have your tires rotated, your oil changed, your brakes checked and a tune up.
Finally, put your phone down. Long stretches of highway can be tedious, but it's no time to turn your attention to your electronic devices. All your attention must be on the road ahead.