ATLANTA – An 11-percent decline in Georgia road fatalities last month has safety experts hopeful Friday but not ready to declare victory.
The number of traffic deaths was 108 in January compared to 121 in the same month of last year, according to Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
“I’m encouraged by these numbers, and I hope that will continue for the whole year,” he said.
A new trend would be especially welcome after the steady climb last year which ultimately rose 17 percent over 2014, the first increase in nine years.
AAA Georgia, the auto club, is also hesitant about trumpeting the latest numbers.
“Although we’re seeing a slight decline in the number of fatalities on Georgia roadways, caution is still important in order to reduce those numbers even further,” said Garrett Townsend, AAA spokesman.
Last month’s numbers may have been helped by Mother Nature since January had far less wintery precipitation than the same month of 2015.
Harris cautions that the statistics are also preliminary. Just on Friday, reports of another December death arrived in his office along with news of eight more January fatalities. Roughly one in 10 Georgia police agencies still files reports by fax or U.S. mail.
Harris urged drivers to be especially vigilant around this weekend’s Super Bowl when too many celebrating fans try to drive home after having drinks at a sports bar or watching party.
A striking feature in last year’s fatality increase was the growth in single-vehicle crashes. Most of the one-car wrecks are due to cellphone use, Harris said.
Experts can’t be certain phone use is to blame because, unlike the presence of alcohol or drugs which can be discovered through blood tests, there is no definitive proof of texting, video streaming, games, photos or other activities when the phones are often thrown from the wreckage or destroyed. Tale-tell signs, though, are vehicles that leave the road, cross the roadway or strike an object.
Several state agencies participated in a campaign last year targeting distracted driving, and a new version called Heads Up Georgia is set to launch in coming weeks.
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