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Traffic deaths up across Ga., down in Gwinnett

TRAFFIC FATALITIES

2005

Georgia: 1,745

Gwinnett: 81

2006

Georgia: 1,701

Gwinnett: 83

2007

Georgia: 1,649

Gwinnett: 65

2008

Georgia: 1,519

Gwinnett: 53

2009

Georgia: 1,292

Gwinnett: 51

2010

Georgia: 1,247

Gwinnett: 54

2011

Georgia: 1,226

Gwinnett: 43

2012

Georgia (through Nov. 15): 1,013

Gwinnett (through Monday): 28

*Gwinnett statistics comprised of data from Gwinnett County Police Department; does not include crashes within municipal jurisdictions

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The heads of two state agencies spent Tuesday on a caravan, pushing their "Operation: Safe Holidays" in five separate cities and warning that Georgia is on pace for its first spike in traffic fatalities in more than half a decade.

In Gwinnett, though, all appears to be well.

The statewide total of 1,013 traffic deaths through Nov. 15 is well on its way to eclipsing last year's total of 1,226, officials predicted, which would mean the first increase since 2005.

"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," Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office for Highway Safety, said in a news release announcing the start of "Operation: Safe Holidays."

"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."

Locally, the outlook is a little brighter.

Through Monday, the Gwinnett County Police Department reported 28 traffic fatalities in its jurisdiction this year. There's still the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel rushes to come, but, barring a disastrous final month-and-a-half, 2012 should see a marked decrease from the 43 deaths reported last year.

A small jump from 51 to 54 deaths between 2009 and 2010 aside, it would be the sixth straight year of decline.

Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith threw out a few possible, speculative explanations for the decline -- improved roadways and intersections, newer and safer cars -- but said even members of the accident investigations unit couldn't put a finger on a concrete explanation.

"We don't have a real solid answer, unfortunately," Smith said.

Gwinnett traffic deaths have been steadily declining since 2006, which marked the end of a three-year period that saw an average of 81 fatalities per year.

Statistics compiled by Gwinnett County police detail only those reported in unincorporated areas of the county. Those handled by municipal police forces were not included.

In "Operation: Safe Holidays," the Georgia State Patrol and Governor's Office of Highway Safety are urging those across the state to not drive impaired, not speed and wear their seat belts. Nearly half of confirmed fatalities on Georgia's roads this year were people not wearing a seat belt, officials said.

"Wearing your seat belt is the most effective thing you can do to ensure you and your passengers arrive safely to your family's Thanksgiving celebration," Col. Mark McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said. "It's also an effective way to avoid getting stopped by law enforcement on your way home."

Comments

yahtzeejimbob 1 year, 10 months ago

I can't believe we have no explanation for the trending we see in this recent increase of traffic fatalities. All of these brilliant minds and the best we hear is improvements to our driving conditions?

Who was it, James Carville, who coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid".

Take a look at the steady decreases in fatalities of the years shown in the article. Notice any parallels between our economy and the declining numbers? The housing industry-based economy was beginning to deflate in 2006, dropping even more steeply in 2008, the year that ended with a near-financial meltdown, then dropping the most in 2009 when you could hardly give your house away if you were trying to sell.

The remaining years have reflected the basic stability of a slowly improving economy, with this year actually beginning to indicate a return to higher death rates.

Simple fact - when the economy slows down, we slow down. Less jobs and opportunities to drive to, less miles driven.

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