Cullman Police: Traffic crashes in city down 14.5% in 2020

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Cullman Police Sgt. Joey Duncan checks vehicle speeds on U.S. Highway 31 downtown in 2019. (Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Police Department on Monday reported that vehicle crashes dropped to 839 in the city in 2020 from 982 in 2019, a reduction of approximately 14.5%. While traffic was thinned out at times by COVID-19 shutdowns, the department could also boast a specially assigned Traffic Unit that allowed the CPD to step up its efforts, issuing 7,640 citations and warnings compared to only 5,349 in 2019, an increase of more than 40%.

Sgt. Joey Duncan told The Tribune, “The Traffic Unit is focused on working high-crash areas and enforcing the violations that cause crashes.” 

Duncan said, “The significant increase in enforcement has led to a drastic drop in the number of vehicle crashes.” 

Traffic Unit officers work hours based on when the majority of crashes occur in the city limits, according to a program from the State of Alabama.

“The Traffic Unit and patrol officers have worked hard to lower the number of crashes in the city,” said Duncan.

Fatalities remain the same, but over a larger area

Duncan told The Tribune that the city saw three traffic fatalities in 2020, the same as in 2019, adding, “We want to get it to zero. But we did incorporate a lot of new area, as far as coverage area for traffic crashes, and the number didn’t go up. So that’s a positive.”

Why do drivers wreck?

“The primary cause of crashes continues to be following too close, which I believe can be contributed to texting and distracted driving,” said Duncan. “Also in our top 10 this year are distractions outside the vehicle, meaning drivers not paying attention to what’s in front of them. So those are two topics, a couple of years ago, we never saw. And now, we’re seeing them in the top 10 of causing wrecks.”

Distractions outside the vehicle generally involve drivers watching things happen around their vehicles while not paying attention to things in front of them, including other vehicles, traffic signals and stop signs. Distractions inside the vehicle include texting or talking on cell phones, eating or conversing with other passengers. Often, two or more contributing circumstances are combined, and investigators are left to determine the primary cause. 

2020 crash statistics

Numbers in parentheses indicate number of 2020 incidents.

Primary contributing circumstances for vehicle crashes

  1. Following too close (167)
  2. Failure to yield right of way from Stop sign (78)
  3. Improper lane change/usage (75)
  4. Misjudging stopping distance (61)
  5. Running traffic signal (53)
  6. Failure to yield right of way making a left or U turn (52)
  7. Distraction outside the vehicle (37)
  8. Improper backing (32)
  9. Failure to yield right of way from private driveway (30)
  10. Distraction inside vehicle (29)

Driver gender

  • Male (443)
  • Female (358)
  • Unknown (15) (leaving scene of crash)
  • No driver (3) (pedestrian)

At intersection

  • Crash occurred at intersection (512)
  • Crash did not occur at intersection (327)

Day of week

  1. Friday (162)
  2. Thursday (156)
  3. Wednesday (148)
  4. Monday (132)
  5. Tuesday (127)
  6. Saturday (67)
  7. Sunday (47)

Top 10 vehicle makes involved in crashes

  1. Chevrolet (174)
  2. Ford (129)
  3. Toyota (77)
  4. Nissan (72)
  5. Honda (55)
  6. GMC (49)
  7. Dodge (46)
  8. Jeep (29)
  9. Kia (24)
  10. Hyundai (17)

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com