Distracted Driving Main Reason for Increase in Roadway Fatalities

May 5th, 2015

Roadway deaths in Georgia have increased by nearly  33% in the first quarter of 2015. This is an alarming statistic for this figure to have jumped this high this quickly, and transportation officials and experts are having a hard time figuring it out.

Distracted driving, which is one of many of today's flawed driving behavioral habits,  is definitely a major factor in this equation, along with speeding, impaired driving, and road rage.  This fact contributes to the many increases in single car fatalities and accidents in which the vehicle failed to maintain its lane.  The experts know and fear that more and more people are driving while using their smart-phones, which of course now offer so many enticements including texting, emails, Facebook and Twitter, as well as the necessary apps that provide road and weather condition updates. This trend will not go away.

Therefore the conclusion is that this increase in fatal accident is due to a lack of individual responsibility!  This is why drivers are encouraged to buckle up, turn off cell phones and stay alert.  None of which is being done on as consistent a basis by today's drivers in Atlanta and across the nation, as we would hope.  The statistics from GDOT have shown that the first quarter of this year saw a 31% increase in roadway deaths, a total of 295 fatalities, which is 70 more than this same time last year. Single-victim fatalities rose from 49% of all fatalities in 2009 to 60% already this year.  Just this month 3 members of a rock band died when their van ran off I-85 in Jackson County, drove down an embankment and struck a tree.  The driver of the passenger van fell asleep.  Unfortunately with summer just around the corner, more families will be traveling together.  This gives rise to the chances of more deaths per accident occurring. The sudden spike of fatalities already this year has definitely caught  the attention of state experts and transportation officials,  especially coming after nine years of declines in roadway deaths and just before the high-travel summer season.  Officials are crafting a $250,000 road safety campaign for this summer.

GDOT officials have many theories as to why there are so many more accidents and fatalities.  Not every fatality even occurs at the scene of the accident, so statistics may not even tell the entire story because so much of the follow-up info never makes its way to GDOT.  Many victims are either distracted by cell phones, other passengers or by a chance changing of a radio station.  The figures show that while Georgians have had cheaper gas prices, causing more people to hit the road in record numbers, that there are fewer drivers wearing seatbelts than in years gone by.  It's clear that Georgians need another seatbelt campaign also, the experts say.

Georgia is not alone in seeing an increase in road deaths this year.  There has been a 10% increase nationally, according to the National Safety Council.  South Carolina officials have said that they are seeing a 14% hike.  But it's still unclear why Georgia remains so high above the national average.  The National Safety Council President, Debbie Hersman, speculated that Georgia's increase could be linked to the recent rise in speed limits on some state highways.  This year GDOT raised the limits to as high as 70 mph on almost 100 miles of metro Atlanta freeways.  But one of GDOT's officials has said that the increase in fatalities is concentrated on other state routes also, not only on those with increased speed limits.  Some of the biggest jumps in fatalities were seen on state routes that are not even interstates.  They saw 44 more deaths in the first quarter, a 42% jump over last year, according to GDOT numbers.  These state routes are usually among the most dangerous in metro Atlanta, including Buford Highway in DeKalb County, Tara Blvd in Clayton County and South Cobb Dr in Cobb County.

For now, state transportation officials are keeping an eye on which way the numbers move.  Let's pray they start going down!