A fatal wreck Tuesday on Alabama 67 shows that something needs to be done to improve safety on the heavily traveled stretch of highway.
One person died in the five-vehicle collision, and at least four people died in wrecks along the stretch last year.
Ideally, Alabama 67 should be wider, but its route through Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge makes widening the road a bureaucratic nightmare, if not an impossibility. One may correctly note the impact on the refuge and its wildlife would be minuscule, especially compared to the improvement in safety, but mere facts here are not going to carry the day.
With widening the road off the table, there seems only one course of action: reducing the speed limit and enforcing it.
That is precisely the action recommended by a study the Alabama Department of Transportation conducted last year, but so far the city of Decatur has not acted on it.
The city is fond of commissioning studies that typically do one of two things: tell city leaders what they already know or make recommendations city leaders choose to ignore. In this case, the state has already done the work, and it’s time for the city to take heed.
The average daily traffic count in 2017 at a point near Tuesday’s accident site was 28,090, according to ALDOT data. That traffic count isn’t likely to drop, and some residents in the area think the worsening traffic situation is good reason to oppose proposed residential developments nearby.
But new residents and the traffic they bring account for just a fraction of the traffic on Alabama 67. New housing developments or not, Alabama 67 is the major thoroughfare connecting Decatur with Lacey’s Spring and south Huntsville, and Huntsville isn’t going to stop expanding just because its growth makes traffic worse in Southeast Decatur.
Alabama 67 is a nice stretch of mostly straight, flat highway. The temptation to drive too fast on it is almost irresistible, and we can see why there is resistance to lowering the speed limit. But Tuesday was another tragic reminder that Alabama 67 is prone to accidents, which can be especially severe when cars are bunched together on a narrow road with little margin for error. That’s how you get five-vehicle pileups.
It’s how people lose their lives needlessly.
The city needs to revisit the speed limit on Alabama 67 and, whether the City Council decides to lower it or not, insist on stepped-up enforcement.
It’s not the ideal solution, but it seems to be the only step the city can take.