More cars on the road means additional police patrols

Cars zooming by on the Seward Highway at the corner of 36th Avenue in Anchorage. The Department...
Cars zooming by on the Seward Highway at the corner of 36th Avenue in Anchorage. The Department of Transportation reports that traffic between there and Benson Boulevard on the Seward has been as much as 12% higher than in 2019.(Taylor Clark)
Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One thing that is certainly returning to normal is the number of cars on the road in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities reports that traffic levels are trending upward and are only slightly below 2019 levels these days.

In some locations, traffic has increased beyond that. The department reports that in May the Seward Highway between 36th Avenue and Benson Boulevard saw traffic levels 12% higher than they were in May 2019.

With more cars on the road, more Anchorage Police Department officers are out looking for violators says Traffic Unit Supervisor Sgt. David Noll.

He said APD has received several overtime grants from the Alaska Highway Safety Office to increase patrols on the highways.

Noll said those included 1,400 hours of overtime on the Glenn and Minnesota Highways, 1,000 hours for the Seward Highway and an extra 400 to deal with increased rates of racing and reckless driving in Anchorage.

“Some details only run four, and some have five or more officers working, and some of them run concurrently at the same time so maybe we have 10 extra officers,” Noll said.

The goal is to cut down on speeding, impaired driving and pedestrian collisions. All of these have an effect on the rate of accidents, which are also returning to normal levels according to DOT and the police department.

APD reports that so far in 2021, there have been 949 reported crashes without injuries, 477 with injuries and eight fatalities. Six of those eight fatalities include vehicle vs. pedestrian collisions.

Noll said the accidents aren’t all due to increased traffic but also a lack of safety measures taken by drivers and pedestrians.

“Some of the trends that we’ve noticed with collisions involving serious injuries probably would have been preventable if they were wearing seat belts,” Noll said. “Another thing we’ve noticed with the bicycle collisions we’ve been to is that the victims were not wearing helmets.”

The police department clarified that the number of accidents without injuries is higher in reality, because some drivers choose to exchange information and report the crash online with the state and not call APD. The number of crashes with injuries includes the crashes with fatalities as well.

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