Safety center advises responsible holiday driving

Jennie Kushner

Students rushing home to see family over the holiday break should use caution while on the roads.

A study composed by UA’s Center for Advanced Public Safety showed that over the 2009 Christmas holiday, 10 fatalities were results of automobile accidents in Alabama.

The same study showed that eight people were killed in automobile accidents over the New Year holiday.

Rhonda Stricklin, assistant research engineer for CAPS, said the main cause for automobile accidents during the holiday season is drinking and driving.

“When you are drinking, you are more likely to speed and not wear your seat belt,” she said.

CAPS has invented an electronic crash reporting system, eCrash, that allows for new insights into the dangers of driving, Stricklin said.

Stricklin said through eCrash, information regarding time and type of accident is readily available.

“Drinking and driving accidents tend to happen really late at night, or really early in the morning,” she said. “Students should avoid traveling at these times.”

Texting is another contributor to accidents, Stricklin said.

“Texting is a comfortable thing, it’s so easy to do, but it is so so dangerous,” she said. “It only takes one time to have a bad crash and kill yourself or kill someone else.”

Students who are traveling home may be safer traveling on highways, Stricklin said.

“Most of the crashes are in rural areas that have two lane roads,” she said. “If it’s a road less traveled, there may be a curve that you are unfamiliar with. It’s better to stick to interstates when you can.”

Defensive driving is also important while traveling home for the holidays, Stricklin said.

“You can’t control other drivers,” she said.

Through eCrash, Stricklin was able to determine that over the 2009 Thanksgiving break, there were 71 deer-strikes crashes.”

Stricklin said several factors that attributed to this number.

“Traveling during rush hour traffic, with the new time change, is when most deer like to move,” she said.

CAPS is able to analyze such specific information through their cutting edge software called CARE.

“We get the raw data from the Department of Public safety, we then enter it into our own software and we are able to analyze it,” she said. “From there we are able to look at different types of variables.

The program is so specific, Stricklin said she can analyze crash information from the time of day compared with the day of the week.

In addition to the invention of eCrash, CAPS also invented eCite, an electronic citation system that allows officers to enter the ticket in their laptop so information is immediately processed in the computer.

This limits paperwork that would take days to file, she said.

Students are proud of the work that CAPS has done, and the effort it is making to inform students on safe holiday driving.

“I think it’s amazing that our university created eCite and eCrash,” said Sarah Hanks, a freshman majoring in marketing. “It shows that our university is committed to keeping students safe on the roadways.

“For CAPS to be able to alert students on the exact number of fatalities at a give point and time is simply amazing,” she said. “What is even more amazing is they can let students know specific numbers.”