Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths Are Back on the Rise at the End of 2015

January 5th, 2015

More than 1300 people have died on Georgia's roads this year. And 25% of those deaths were the result of drunken driving.

Governor Nathan Deal warned listeners to a Public Service Announcement that aired statewide on television and radio throughout the holiday season, "Watch Your Speed," "Put down Your Phone," "Don't Drive If You've Been Drinking!"

For months, state officials have been alert to an unwelcome change:  After falling annually for nine straight years, Georgia's traffic deaths were up this year.  Figures compiled by the state Department of Transportation and released through the Governor's Office of Highway Safety show that traffic deaths in Georgia fell each year from 2005-2014, going from 1,729 to 1,170, even as the US Census estimates show the state added about 1 million residents.  But, Georgia roadway deaths for 2015 hit 1,345 as of last week. That's up 16%, from 2014. According to state data, the 1,345 does include the 6 people killed in car-train collisions,  the 192 pedestrians, the 138 motorcycles and the 21 bicyclists accidents.

The largest number of traffic deaths occurred on state and local roads, 675 and 485 respectively, but deaths on interstates - often the most visible because of the gridlock that follows - are up 21% from 153 in 2014 to 185 in 2015.  The big questions is, "how many were actually caused by and in alcohol related situations?

Part of the reason the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has to take its time to determine if alcohol is the only culprit, is that can take months to obtain blood test results from the GBI crime lab. The percentage of alcohol as a factor has been consistent on a percentage basis over a 10-year period, even as fatalities were going down prior to this year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's  website gives an extensive 5-year view of fatal crashes in Georgia and the nation, which includes the role alcohol plays.  Between 2010 and 2014, alcohol -impaired driving was a factor in 24-25% of all fatal accidents each year. The one exception was 2011, when the percentage dropped to 22%.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety did a preliminary analysis early in 2015 which determined that there is no evidence that "'the alcohol percentage in fatal car accidents is going down," from prior years.
In the first nine months of 2015, there were 483 instances where an officer requested an alcohol test or a driver refused an alcohol test, as stated by a spokesman  from the Governor's office.

The public service announcement that said that more than 1,300 people would die on Georgia's roads before the end of 2015, was true.  The number was very close, at 1,345 says the Office of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
This is staggering, but true.  So we, the motorists of Georgia's roads, need to take ownership and drive more responsibly! Let's Do This in 2016 - Have a Safer and Happier New Year!