Blake Weaver, who works as a service technician for Budget Heating and Cooling, said, “I travel [U.S. Highway] 431 every single day. Every single day is a horror story.”
There’s no denying U.S. 431 can be a terrifying experience for drivers — especially those unfamiliar with the area or those who are new to driving. But rather than problems with infrastructure, most people believe the biggest issue with U.S. 431 is the lack of properly educated drivers.
Jeremy Sullivan, who is the drivers education teacher and head football coach at Boaz High School, said there is no rush in getting to U.S. 431 when teaching his students.
“I only take them on U.S. 431 after building up to it,” Sullivan said. “Some never make it that far. The ones that do are the ones that I trust can handle unexpected situations.”
Points of emphasis Sullivan teaches students include defensive-minded driving and staying in the right lane at all times — unless passing — and using extreme caution in medians.
Though all drivers are supposed to be taught similar points, many residents feel they are not practiced.
In September, the Anti-Road Rage Act that requires drivers to stay in the right lane on Alabama interstates, unless passing another vehicle, became law. Although the new law does not apply to all major highways, Donald Barnard, who is a resident of Boaz and frequent traveler of U.S. 431, believes it should.
“This road rage law should apply to U.S. Highway 431,” he told The Reporter in August. “We have about 30,000 vehicles driving on 431 every day … that’s a number I came up with after I found a study done a few years ago that said there were 26,000. We have a lot more people here driving that highway now, so I just figure it’s close to 30,000.
“The people of this area know 431 is worse for slow drivers in the left lane than on the interstate,” Barnard continued. “I suggest Gov. [Kay] Ivey issue an executive order that 431 be covered under the road rage law. She’d have to overrule the highway department, but it would be worth it. All multi-lane highways should be included.”
Barnard has since shared his idea to put up signs directing drivers to stay in the right lane unless passing with local municipalities. He thinks it could help traffic flow.
Many residents feel other motorists fail to take a cautious, defensive approach while driving.
Marisa Frachiseur, of Boaz, is an EMT for A-Med Ambulance Service in Altoona. She said a problem she would like to see addressed is drivers not being considerate of emergency vehicles responding to a call.
“I notice it happens a lot more now days,” Frachiseur said.
Cricket Sanders, of Albertville, said she drove to work in Huntsville every day for 20 years on U.S. 431. She said it wasn’t bad until she reached the Marshall County area of the highway.
“Driving U.S. 431 is horrible any time of day,” she said. “Not sure if it’s the traffic lights or just the people aren’t always considerate. It’s probably both.”
After the U.S. 431 traffic study was completed by Sain and Associates in 2018, Wanda Parker, of Albertville, attended a public meeting in Boaz to listen to suggestions. After the meeting, she told The Reporter that some of the changes could benefit the communities, but education about the changes might be a problem.
“I do agree that we have too many access points, and it slows down traffic a lot,” Parker said. “My biggest concern is education [if] these things are implemented … I’m not knocking the people of Marshall County’s IQ, but when you’re not used to something, it’s going to take time getting used to it.
“I don’t think they will like all these different avenues closed at first,” Parker continued. “But, I think if people will embrace it – think ahead of where I need to turn, or do I need to change my route a little bit – I think this [would] really help.”
When asked what the biggest infrastructural problem with U.S. 431 was, a lot of residents gave a response concerning medians. They believed there were too many, and others felt no one understands how to properly use them.
“Trying to use a median with 80% of these people on [U.S.] 431 is a nightmare in itself,” Savanah Rena Duncan, of Guntersville, said.