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Alabama using funds for trooper patrols

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama is going to use federal funds to pay state troopers to work overtime on the state's deadliest roads.

The crackdown, announced by Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday, comes after the "Take Back Our Highways" program in mid-August that put an extra 200 troopers on the roads for five days and more than quadrupled the normal number of tickets.

A two-year agreement between the Alabama Department of Transportation and the state Department of Public Safety calls for the Transportation Department to supply $5.6 million in federal highway safety funds for extra patrols in areas with the greatest number of wrecks. The money will be used to pay troopers overtime and for radar equipment.

Transportation spokesman Tony Harris said the department gets federal highway funds that it can allocate to a variety of safety programs. He said the new agreement with the Public Safety Department is a major increase from the last one, which provided $3 million.

The reason is that traffic fatalities in Alabama climbed 5 percent in 2006 to 1,208, which was the highest figure since 1973.

"This program is one of many that we are all trying to do in Alabama to get the fatality rate below 1,000," Harris said.

Riley said most fatal crashes in Alabama involve speeding and drunken driving.

"That's why this effort will focus special attention where speed and drunk driving crashes have caused an especially high number of deaths and injuries," he said.

The CARE Research and Development Laboratory at The University of Alabama will use statistical information to help the state agencies identify the problem areas that should get extra patrols, Riley said in an announcement.

While the state is increasing the federal money it allocates for trooper patrols, Harris said the bulk of the highway safety money will be used to widen rural two-lane roads by two feet on each side and to install guardrails in the middle of interstate highways to prevent vehicles from crossing to other side. He said both of those road improvements have demonstrated they will save lives.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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