By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
According to Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) a staggering 1,549 fatalities were reported on Georgia roadways in 2017, adding to an increasing call for action.
District 6 Engineer Grant Waldroup, manager of the northwest Georgia region that includes Fannin County, spoke to the Rotary Club of Blue Ridge Aug. 20 about the safety campaign Drive Alert Arrive Alive (DAAA).
In 2017 GDOT started DAAA to educate motorists about simple behaviors they can change to increase safety on roadways. Three focal points encourage drivers to 1) get off phones,2) buckle up and 3) don’t drive drowsy or impaired were defined as key challenge areas.
“On your way here today, did you notice anyone looking on their phone while they were driving?” Waldroup posed to his captive audience of Rotary members and guests.
A 32 percent increase in fatalities over a threeyear period is showing a shift in time when roadway deaths were once declining.
“For a long time every year we were having less fatalities,” Waldroup said. Cars were getting safer, installation of air bag protection in the ‘90s and seat belt safety was helping, but then came mass cell phone use.
On average four people a day are dying on Georgia roadways, Waldroup said. “That’s four people that won’t make it home tonight, that’s way too many, that’s a problem we need to try to solve,” he said.
Implementation of the Georgia Hands-Free Law in July 2018 has shown a small decrease, but cell phone use is still happening by drivers.
Waldroup reported 55 percent of crashes are from vehicles not maintaining their lane. Studies show the majority of crashes involved hitting another vehicle head on by crossing the center line, driving off the shoulder and hitting some kind of fixed object. A staggering 44 percent of crashes are single vehicles hitting things like culverts, trees or other fixed objects.
“That’s way too many and that’s a strong indication that people are not looking at the road, their minds are on other things,” Waldroup said.
In 56 percent of vehicular fatalities, the lack of wearing a seat belt is the factor. “There’s no doubt that not wearing a seat belt is risky behavior,” he said.
An uptick in pedestrian fatalities is also being reported. Up to 17 percent of all roadway deaths are pedestrians.
According to Waldroup, “It’s our personal responsibility to help make these roadways safe. There is no reason to drive carelessly and disobey roadway rules that are clearly put in place for a purpose.”