Traffic fatalities in Georgia are expected to rise in Georgia in 2012, marking the first increase in the state’s traffic deaths in more than five years.
In light of the potential increase in deaths, Col. Mark McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, and Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, launched “Operation: Safe Holidays” Tuesday in a tour that they hope will stem the tide of rising traffic fatalities this year.
“Already, we have surpassed where we were this time last year and we have not even entered the holiday season, our busiest traffic period of the year,” Mr. Blackwood said. “We have to do everything in our power to hold that line and do everything in our power to make motorists pay attention to the deadly consequences of distracted and impaired driving and buckle up every trip, every time, from now until the end of the year. We simply cannot afford to lose another life on Georgia’s roads this year.”
The potential increase in road fatalities for 2012, if realized, would come after six consecutive years of decreasing fatality rates on Georgia’s roadways.
Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 15, 1,013 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia. The rate of traffic fatalities this year is in line to exceed that of 2011, when 1,226 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia.
Appearing together in five cities across the state, Mr. McDonough and Mr. Blackwood called attention to the increasing need for vigilance on Georgia’s roads in the final 41 days of the year, saying that saving a life is as simple as securing a seat belt.
“Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure you and your passengers arrive safely to your family’s Thanksgiving celebration,” said Col. McDonough. “It’s also an effective way to avoid getting stopped by law enforcement on your way home.”
Already, law enforcement officials across the state have been participating in Click-it or Ticket, a national campaign to enforce seat belt laws and save lives during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.
“Fatal crashes frequently involve speed, an impaired driver, or the victim not being properly restrained,” Col. McDonough said, “and sometimes it is any combination of these contributing circumstances.”
Mr. McDonough said traffic enforcement operations will reduce traffic crashes across the state.
“We want everyone to enjoy the holiday period but make traffic safety the priority while you travel,” he added.
In 2010 alone, seat belts saved more than 12,500 lives nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Federal research also shows that proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. Proper seat belt use reduces the risk of moderate to serious injuries by 50 percent.
Still, nearly 50 percent of the confirmed fatalities on Georgia’s roads this year were people who were not wearing a seat belt. And nearly 68,000 people across the state were cited for not wearing a seat belt during a 100-day enforcement campaign this past summer.
“While Georgia’s rate of seat belt use averages above 90 percent, nearly every week, there is a fatal crash involving a person who was not properly restrained,” said Mr. Blackwood. “Seat belt use is one of the few things we have control over in our lives. Neglecting it should never be a factor in our deaths.”