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Red Bay's Creel joins governor to 'Take Back Our Highways'

By Staff
Jason Cannon
Franklin County Times
MONTGOMERY – Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Red Bay Police Chief Pat Creel joined the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Tennessee Highway Patrol and sheriff and police departments throughout Alabama in announcing Thursday an intensive joint initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and increase safety during the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays.
The program, "Take Back Our Highways," will place all available law enforcement officers from participating agencies on patrol duty Nov. 19-25 in an intensive highway safety effort throughout the tri-state area, said Col. J. Christopher Murphy, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
In Alabama, troopers, police officers and deputies will target crash-prone areas and implement line patrols, saturation patrols, driver license checkpoints, and LIDAR details, Murphy said. Approximately 200 additional troopers and officers from sheriff and police departments throughout the state will take part in the initiative.
Bobby Timmons, executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said, "Alabama's sheriffs are in full support of taking back our highways to reduce traffic fatalities and remove drunken drivers from our roadways."
"Supporting this initiative is certainly worthwhile since, statistically, it saves lives," said Creel, who also serves as president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police. "Proactive enforcement of traffic laws is a time-tested and proven remedy used to reduce the number of traffic crashes and deaths caused by those crashes. Our department is on board."
Joining Riley and Murphy to announce the initiative were Col. Michael Berthay, director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and Col. Mike Walker, director of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Murphy, Berthay and Walker also scheduled news conferences in Nashville and Jackson, Miss., to announce the safety program.
"Our efforts in Alabama are working to save lives. Our emphasis on safety has helped reduce traffic deaths and injuries on rural Alabama roads to their lowest levels in four years," said Riley. "Now, we are pleased to be joined by our neighbors, Mississippi and Tennessee, in making all our highways safer this Thanksgiving season," the governor said.
The Alabama Department of Public Safety first introduced "Take Back Our Highways" in August to save lives and increase public awareness about safety, said Murphy.
The program placed every available state trooper in uniform and on patrol Aug. 13-17, including the addition of approximately 200 troopers normally assigned to duties other than patrol. During that week, rural traffic deaths in Alabama were cut 69 percent compared with the same period in 2006.
Rural traffic deaths in Alabama have continued to decline, with 73 fewer fatalities recorded as of Nov. 6, compared with 2006.
Murphy said the results of "Take Back Our Highways" prompted plans to schedule a second interval during the peak Thanksgiving travel period involving fellow officers in Alabama and in Mississippi and Tennessee.
"In the tri-state area, we are committed to giving holiday travelers one more reason to be thankful: arriving safely," said Murphy.
Throughout the Thanksgiving week, officers in all three states will target primary driving behaviors that cause crashes and contribute to more severe crashes, Murphy said. These include speeding, failure to yield the right of way, following too closely, driver inattention, and DUI.
In 2006 in Alabama, during the 102-hour holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, through midnight Sunday, Nov. 26), 19 persons were killed in traffic crashes. Twelve of the fatalities were rural, and seven urban; at least three of the fatalities were alcohol-related, and eight of the occupants killed were not using seat belts.