Atlanta – Georgia highways are markedly safer than they were only a few years ago. How much so?
A number – 549 – is one notable measurement of improvement. That’s how many fewer people died on Georgia highways last year than in 2005. That’s 549 tragic phone calls to next of kin that didn’t have to be made; 549 funerals not needed; 549 fewer devastated families. That’s also thousands more lives that weren’t shattered and thousands more hearts that weren’t broken.
The Georgia Department of Transportation intends to sustain and build on that momentum. In support of the Federal Highway Administration’s Toward Zero Deaths national initiative to reduce fatalities, Georgia DOT is promoting a series of educational safety videos. To be posted on the Department’s You Tube channel and the Department’s website, these DriveSmart videos encourage drivers to fully focus on their most important activity and responsibility – driving safely and courteously. The videos will be released weekly over the next four weeks and can be viewed at - www.dot.ga.gov/travelingingeorgia/Pages/travelinfo.aspx and also on our DriveSmart YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/EMr-EFvA52w
“We are gratified by the continuing progress being made in reducing fatal accidents on Georgia highways, especially so as we approach another travel-heavy holiday weekend,” Commissioner Keith Golden commented. “One death is too many, however. This educational video outreach is part of our overall effort. That work is grounded in the Governor’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a data-driven program through which we focus on key safety initiatives attainable through what we refer to as the four E’s – education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services.”
Georgia highway fatalities have declined each year since 2005. The 2012 total was 1,199; by comparison, 2005 deaths were a record high 1,748. Nationally, highway fatalities increased five percent in 2012 to approximately 36,200. The aggressive safety emphasis by Georgia DOT, the Department of Public Safety and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, however, kept the state’s numbers trending downward. Every Georgia DOT project is designed and constructed to meet or exceed federal safety guidelines, Golden noted, adding that Department employees are going above and beyond the guidelines – looking for still more ways to improve safety. “There is a broad array of efforts our Office of Traffic Operations is refining and utilizing to improve safety and reduce fatalities, injuries and crashes,” he observed. “Roundabout intersections, increased use of cable barrier on interstate highways and freeways, raised center median barriers, rumble strips, more reflective signage and striping, coordination of traffic signal timing, pedestrian accommodations – all of these are among the things we are doing to make our roads safer.”
The Department’s Complete Streets policy is aimed in part to help address an area of continuing concern – incidents in which pedestrians are injured or killed. There were a total of 168 pedestrian fatalities in Georgia last year. “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,” Chief Engineer Russell McMurry noted. “Growing segments of the population using our system, especially in metropolitan areas, are cyclists and walkers. We are committed to a system that accommodates and protects them.”
Department leaders noted, however, that there are factors beyond Georgia DOT’s control. “We certainly do everything we can to make our transportation system safe,” Golden said, “but it ultimately falls upon each user of that system to act responsibly and safely.”