Police: Inattentiveness leads to fatal wrecks

LAWRENCEVILLE - As of Friday, there have been 62 fatalities caused by 55 vehicle-collision incidents in Gwinnett County this year.

As of Thursday, there were approximately 1,242 fatalities reported in the state, according to preliminary statistics from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Police say there is no particular area in Gwinnett where the incidents occur, but a primary factor is driver inattentiveness.

"If you ever just watch people driving, they really don't know what's going on around them," said Sgt. Scott Nealy with the Gwinnett County Police Department's accident investigation unit. "The biggest thing is to make sure you're paying attention to what you're doing."

Nealy said death can be prevented in a lot of cases by simply wearing a seat belt, which many people don't do.

But there are some exceptions.

"We have some catastrophic wrecks that would be fatalities if they would have been wearing their seat belt or not," Nealy said.

Other common factors include speed, DUI, failure to maintain a lane and running a red light or stop sign, Nealy said.

But it is everyone's responsibility to be cautious at all times.

"If you're the first car at a traffic light, make sure cross traffic is stopping," Nealy said. "Take that second to pause before you proceed through an intersection.

"If you're driving the speed limit and paying attention, you're less likely to be involved in a fatality."

As for the DUIs, they are attributed to a number of incidents during the evening hours, Nealy said.

This month, there have been seven deaths involving vehicles, Nealy said.

One occurred when a driver fell asleep; another occurred when a driver failed to obey a stop sign; another occurred when a bus backed into oncoming traffic while attempting to make a U-turn; another occurred when a driver was following too close; another was caused by a traffic light violation; another was caused by a suspected DUI; and the last involved a pedestrian who was struck while crossing the street when traffic had a green light.

It's no secret that some incidents are unavoidable, but mitigating the number of fatalities on the road starts with the individual drivers themselves.

Paying attention and eliminating distractions such as cell phones, food, newspapers and jotting down notes are good starting points.

Pay attention, slow down and wear your seat belt - these are essential, Nealy said.

The Gwinnett County Police Department also lists two deaths that involved vehicles, but the cause of death in both cases was not because of the crash, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the GCPD.

For example, a driver in Norcross recently had a heart attack at the wheel and the car crashed. The cause of death was the heart attack and not the injuries sustained in the accident.