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WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Safety more important than building roads

State Department of Transportation Director Joe McInnes asked a rhetorical question recently about big-truck safety that deserves an answer.

He said that weigh stations cost about $10 million to get up and running. "Which program do I not do in the meanwhile to make that happen?" he asked.

Well, just about any one he would choose is how many people would answer who are tired of seeing overturned cargo along the state's interstates.

Building weigh and inspection stations is about safety, which should take priority.

Alabamians use Mississippi to gauge the state's progress or lack of progress on many fronts. Mississippi had 22 permanent inspection stations last year; Alabama had one.

In all, Alabama made about 1 million truck inspections; Mississippi did more than 8 million.

A meeting in Birmingham this week of state, steel and trucking interests produced calls for stiffer penalties for commercial drivers and trucking companies that lose their loads.

In many, if not most cases, speed is a factor in overturned rigs. Mr. McInnes was at that meeting and noted that legislation isn't required to lower speeds. Gov. Bob Riley can do that, he said.

That act by the governor wouldn't cost the state a dime. Conversely, lowering speeds would save diesel fuel, cut the number of spills, reduce the instances where traffic backs up for miles during a spill and save lives.

The reason Alabama does so little to improve the safety of big trucks always comes back to lack of enough state troopers to enforce even existing laws. That excuse is getting a little old given the state's second straight year of solid revenue growth.

If you think big-rig drivers don't violate the law, get on Interstate 65 and set your speed control at 70 mph.

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