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Alabama’s Highway Of Death?

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Earlier this year, al.com posted an article titled “Alabama’s ‘highway to hell’ ranked among worst in world.” The article discusses a list of the most dangerous roads in the world.

The list of dangerous roads includes several involving terrifying drop-offs and narrow passes as well as a gravel road winding through the Himalayan Mountains. Those roads are clearly dangerous for travelers. Listed among those clearly dangerous roads with drop-offs or winding narrow passes — U.S. Highway 431 in Alabama. Huh? On one hand, that’s certainly a strange addition to the list. Yet, on second thought, I can see why the author believes that roadway unsafe.

Why is Highway 431 included in a list of the world’s most dangerous roads? According to the article:

U.S. Route 431 running through Alabama is littered with crosses in memory of all the lives lost on this deadly section of road. . .

I’ve regularly driven Highway 431, mainly traveling to nearby courthouses in Guntersville, Gadsden or Anniston. I’ve also frequently helped families suffering the injury or death of a loved one along this highway. The road itself is not necessarily dangerous. Yet, traffic issues make it dangerous. Each year, many people suffer significant personal injuries in automobile accidents along this stretch of highway. Many families lose loved ones in deadly accidents. Here are five reasons Highway 431 in Alabama can be dangerous for drivers:

  1. High speeds on rural stretches of the highway.
  2. Sudden stops in many of the small towns along the highway.
  3. Sudden changes in the number of lanes.
  4. Large numbers of vehicles entering and exiting the highway in towns along the route.
  5. Poorly lit rural stretches of the highway.

What makes Highway 431 unsafe? The road is unsafe because it contains so many distractions from driver focus coupled with changes requiring quick decisions. When drivers are faced with sudden changes in conditions they can make decisions which are negligent and cause injury to themselves or others.

We recently investigated a severe injury where a business on the highway in Madison County constructed an exit requiring drivers turning in one direction on the highway to cross several lanes at an angle where they could not see oncoming traffic. Because of that danger, a high-speed collision involving three different vehicles occurred. That collision left one driver permanently disabled. In our case, the injury could have easily been prevented with some planning that did not place drivers in such a difficult position.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) could make some safety changes on this highway. Will ALDOT make those changes? That’s a key question.