Make safety a New Year’s resolution

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2024

With the dawn of a new year came winter weather over the weekend –  freezing temperatures, rain and and a few snow flurries in the northern part of the state. As Alabamians are considering New Year’s resolutions, it is a good time to remember that driver courtesy and safety should be a top priority. 

Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Hal Taylor said, “Whether you are traveling long distances for a celebration, going to watch your favorite team play, or staying close to home, we encourage everyone to prepare your vehicle before departing for the trip. Even if you plan to be in an area of the state that will not experience rain or snow, it is smart to pack emergency supplies and ensure your vehicle is winter ready. The weather can change without notice and when the temperature drops the last place anyone wants to be is stranded on the side of the road without being properly equipped.”  

Prepare your vehicle and check:  

  • Headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights. Be sure to also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals, if necessary. 
  • Defrosters and all windshield wipers; and replace any worn blades. 
  • The cooling system for leaks; also test the coolant and drain or replace if necessary. 
  • Your battery, charging system, and belts. When temps drop, so does battery power. 
  • Tires (including spare) and their age. Check the tread, sidewalls, and inflation pressure. 

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Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, and supplies you might need in an emergency, including jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices (flares and emergency markers); blankets for protection from the cold; and a cell phone and charger, water, food, and any necessary medications. Remember to gas up your vehicle or plug it in if it is electrical. When driving in potentially icy conditions, do not utilize your vehicle’s cruise control, which creates issues and could cause you to lose control, especially when crossing frozen or iced-over bridges. Plan your route, check weather conditions and always remain courteous and cautious when driving on the roadways.  

ALEA’s Director of Public Safety, Colonel Jon Archer, said, “Being a courteous driver is a simple driving behavior that goes a long way and makes our roads safer for everyone. Some of the top contributing circumstances we continually see in traffic crashes are following too closely, improper lane change or usage, driving over the posted speed limit, and driving while distracted. We encourage everyone to include safety and the habit of being a courteous driver in their New Year’s resolutions.”  

Take the pledge to be a courteous driver throughout 2024 by:  

  • Avoid cruising in the left lane. The left lane is intended to be used for passing. Once you have passed another vehicle, please move back to the middle or right lane to keep the left lane open. In Alabama, a vehicle may not remain in the leftmost lane for more than 1.5 miles without completely passing another vehicle. 
  • Don’t follow too closely. Always follow at a safe distance to allow yourself time to react.  Adjust your following distance to appropriately match weather conditions, road conditions, visibility, and traffic.  
  • Always use your turn signal when changing lanes. Making sure other drivers are aware of a change in your path ensures they have time to react and can help avoid a crash. Don’t forget to check your blind spots, as well. 
  • Remember to share the road with pedestrians and cyclists. We share the responsibility to keep vulnerable road users safe. Be especially careful when turning at intersections and when driving in heavily populated areas, or even driving through congested parking lots as the holiday sales continue.  
  • Move over. It isn’t just courteous; it’s the law. When you see emergency vehicles, road maintenance, tow trucks, or vehicles on the side of the road with their hazards on, safely move over to provide space and proceed cautiously. If you are unable to move over because of traffic, slow down to 15 miles per hour below the posted speed limit.