Alabama has the highest number of licensed drivers of any state in the Southern U.S., with 803 drivers per 1,000 residents according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Operating any motor vehicle other than a farm tractor in Alabama requires a driver’s license, obtained by either exchanging a current valid out of state driver’s license or passing a drivers examination that includes both a written and on the road test. Alabama drivers licenses are not issued to individuals under the age of 16, anyone who is suffering from a physical or mental impairment which is deemed to prevent the safe operation of a motor vehicle, or who has had their drivers license revoked or suspended by another state.
Alabama ranks fifth in the nation for fatal car accidents involving teenagers, averaging twice the number of teen deaths due to automobile accidents in Alabama compared with nationwide statistics. In 2010 the state dramatically changed its drivers licensing laws in regards to individuals ages 15 and 16 to help decrease this sobering statistic. Drivers can enter Stage I at the age of 15 to secure a learner’s permit after passing a written examination, prior to moving to Stage II which is a restricted license. The Alabama Graduated Drivers Licensing System is designed to help younger drivers gain driving experience in lower risk conditions and in phases that help them graduate to more complex and difficult on-road conditions.
Failure to yield the right of way is the most common reason for traffic accidents in Alabama, with following too closely or tailgating, misjudging the amount of time and space need to make a safe stop, and failure to notice an object or person among other leading causes of traffic accidents in the state. According to studies done by Alabama State Troopers, half of all car crashes in the state in 2012 that involved fatalities occured because drivers and/or passengers failed to buckle their seat belt.
Driving while under the influence continues to be a major problem for all drivers in Alabama. There were 278 traffic fatalities occuring in 2010, 40 of these involving drivers under the age of 21. Although these numbers are still high, they represent a 27% decrease in DUI fatalities since 2001. Throughout the state, the most recent statistics released indicate that a total of 123,690 traffic accidents resulted in 848 fatalities and 35,153 injuries requiring medical attention.
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