Every road should be a highway safety corridor

It was good to hear news this past week that the state Department of Transportation is looking at additional ways to increase traffic safety along the Sterling Highway between Sterling and Soldotna.

According the department, that 10.99-mile stretch of highway has seen 32 fatal accidents and 85 major injury accidents over the past 35 years.

As reported in the Clarion, DOT’s top suggestion is to make that section of road a four-lane divided highway, but a project of that scope is a long way off. Other ideas include installing a median or adding more turning lanes, and DOT also is soliciting public input.

“People are passionate about that roadway because they’ve had near misses,” Anne Brooks, DOT public involvement coordinator, told the Clarion.

DOT officials also noted that since being designated a highway safety corridor in 2009, there have been no fatal accidents along that stretch of road. Highway safety corridors receive extra attention from law enforcement, reduced speed limits, doubled fines and additional signage.

There’s an important takeaway from that statistic: driver awareness, attitude and behavior are crucial to making Alaska roads safer. Whether it’s the extra signs or the extra enforcement, drivers are paying attention to what they’re doing along that stretch of road. Slowing down, putting away your cell phone and driving defensively can prevent travelers from becoming another statistic.

But, that leaves us with another question. While road improvements are welcome, shouldn’t we treat every stretch of road as a highway safety corridor?

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