Last year was one of the deadliest in recent years for highway fatalities in Georgia, and this year isn’t looking any better.
“On this day in 2015, we had 551 roadway fatalities. Sadly today, we’re at 544,” said Annalysce Baker, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
According to the National Safety Council, Georgia’s rise in roadway deaths is part of a national trend. Three thousand more people died on U.S. roadways in 2015 than the year before.
“Much of this increase can be tracked back to the economy,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistic at the council.
A better economy means people are driving more, Kolosh said, and that’s resulted in more crashes.
He said you can see it in Georgia, which experienced one of the steepest increases in 2015. Traffic fatalities rose 20 percent in the state between 2014 and 2015.
“Georgia appears to be recovering from the recession a little bit quicker than some other states,” Kolosh said, “which is great news for Georgia, but unfortunately it often coincides with increases in motor vehicle fatalities.”
Many deaths can be prevented, Kolosh said, by getting people to wear seatbelts and discouraging distracted driving.
Last year, GDOT launched its “Drive Alert, Arrive Alive” campaign, which warns of the dangers of cell phone use while driving. Baker pointed out that it is purely educational, since GDOT is not involved in enforcement.
Georgia’s Department of Public Safety, however, said the state patrol has a goal of increasing citations for distracted driving.
Meanwhile, the National Safety Council expects the number of highway deaths to continue increasing. In fact, it predicts this Memorial Day weekend will be the deadliest since 2009.