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April 2, 2014

State highway fatalities drop again

Local agency notices safer driving overall

MILLEDGEVILLE — The number of fatalities on Georgia highways fell again in 2013, the eighth straight year traffic crash deaths in the state have declined.  

The Georgia Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) announced Monday that there were 1,186 persons killed resulting from crashes on state roads last year. That total is 13 less than in 2012 and 562 fewer than 2005’s record of 1,748.

“The reduction in fatalities over eight years means that more than 500 additional persons will get to celebrate the life events that are special to us all,” GOHS Director Harris Blackwood said in a press release. “Each number represents a family that has been spared from the horror of learning that a loved one has been killed in a motor vehicle crash. We must continue to work toward reducing injuries and death on Georgia roads.”

Georgia DOT Commissioner Keith Golden noted an array of efforts by Blackwood’s agency and his own department’s Traffic Operations Office are constantly being refined and employed to improve highway safety and reduce fatalities, injuries and crashes.  

Roundabout intersections, center median cable barriers, rumble strips, more reflective signage and striping, traffic signal synchronization and more pedestrian accommodations are among the Department’s efforts.  

Its Strategic Highway Safety Plan is a data-driven program focusing on key initiatives that can be attained through what Golden calls the four E’s — education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services.   

“We are gratified by the continuing progress of these efforts,” Golden said.

In Georgia, notable reductions were recorded last year in fatalities among motorcyclists (down 21 to a total of 110) and also those on local streets and roads (a decline from 557 in 2012 to 523).

Milledgeville’s Georgia State Patrol Post 33 covering Baldwin, Jones, Hancock, and Washington counties reported eight fatalities in 2013.

Post 33 troopers investigated 636 total crashes and made 181 DUI arrests last year as well. Baldwin accounts for the bulk of those numbers that did go up on the crash side from 2012.

Sgt. MacKay Bloodworth with the Milledgeville Post said the GSP outfit has seen a decrease in DUIs though some still fail to use designated drivers.

Bloodworth attributes smarter decisions behind the wheel for an overall state drop in roadway deaths.

In multi-jurisdictional efforts with local city, county and college agencies, GSP has upped the number of sobriety checkpoints during “high DUI” times Thursday through Saturdays.

“Local motorists shouldn’t be surprised,” Bloodworth said.

Even with some traffic fatalities to start 2014, GSP is doing what it can on the enforcement side to prevent an unwanted statistic.

Warmer spring and summer weather means more people on state highways and roads.

Bloodworth said troopers would be “more proactive” at peak times.

Final national fatality statistics for 2013 are not yet finalized; those numbers had increased 5 percent in 2012 to approximately 36,200 deaths.

Continuing areas of concern are bicyclists, which increased from 19 to 26 deaths and pedestrians — up 11 for the year to 178.  

Milledgeville’s downtown college population always increases the likelihood of pedestrian related crashes.

“Stay off the cellphones in those areas, and be aware of the crosswalks,” Bloodworth said.

Georgia DOT’s “Complete Streets” policy was put in place last year and is aimed in part to help reduce these incidents.  

“Complete Streets is a long-term, broad initiative to design and build our transportation infrastructure in a way that best serves all of its users, be they drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians,” Department Chief Engineer Russell McMurry noted. “Growing segments of the population using our system, especially in metropolitan areas, are cyclists and walkers.  The system must accommodate and protect them.”

The City of Milledgeville enacted a Complete Streets Policy in 2013 to accommodate needs and expectations of all users of city roadways and streets including bicyclists.

Under the Complete Streets Policy, the city agreed to try and accommodate all road users in all new construction and reconstruction within the current budget constraints.

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