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Ga. receives $2.5M grant to study fatal vehicle crashes

Approximately 45% of the state’s MVA’s had a confirmed or suspected distracted driver


A fatal crash blocked all northbound lanes of Ga. 400 at Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell for five hours Tuesday morning, June 27, 2023.

John Spink / John.Spink/TNS

By Helena Oliviero, Justin Price
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA — For those who drive regularly on metro’s clogged highways and streets, the latest roadway fatality data only confirms what shows up on daily news reports. Speed. Road rage. Distracted drivers.

The death toll from vehicle crashes in Georgia is staggering and continues to climb, according to preliminary data for 2022 from the Georgia Department of Transportation, the latest year for which data is available.

In 2022, 1,982 people died on Georgia roads, according to GDOT, an average of about 5 a day. That marks a decrease from 2,020 fatalities in 2021, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of vehicle crash data from GDOT.

Some of the more eye-opening findings from an analysis of GDOT data from 2022 motor vehicle fatalities include:

— Speed played a role in 16% of the vehicle fatalities.

— Aggressive driving was a factor in one of every five of the fatalities.

— About 18% of all traffic crash fatalities in Georgia are related to suspected impairment while driving

— More than half (62%) of those who died in 2022 were either not wearing a seatbelt or the officer on the scene could not determine if they were.

— Among those who died, 17% or 339 were pedestrians.

After years of decline, the number of people dying in vehicle accidents has been rising — even during the pandemic when fewer people were on the roads. The total of deaths in 2021 marked a 16% increase over the previous year and represented the largest number of traffic fatalities in the state over the past decade.

The busy streets and interstates in metro Atlanta are the scene of deadly crashes every week. But experts agree following safety rules, whether behind the wheel or while walking, could help prevent most deaths on the road.

A major factor was being distracted. About 45% of motor vehicle crashes had a confirmed or suspected distracted driver.

After a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association last fall about the upward trend in pedestrian fatalities, GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins said “enough is enough.”

“Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home. These are people living their daily lives – commuting to and from school and work, picking up groceries, walking the dog, getting some exercise – who died suddenly and violently,” Adkins said after the study was released. “The saddest part is that these crashes are preventable.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health has received a $2.5 million grant to tackle vehicle crashes, a leading cause of death.

DPH said the grant money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will go toward several programs including one to distribute child safety seats, and another effort to analyze crash data and potential factors contributing to the crash such as speeding. The funds also include $208,874 for education, courses, and risk assessments for drivers over 55.

“These grant dollars provide safety equipment, and education, and contribute to a safer roadway system for Georgians and everyone who travels through the state,” said Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, commissioner of the DPH in a press release.

Other efforts are also underway to help reduce deaths and injuries from vehicle accidents. About a year ago, Emory University and the Grady Health System were awarded $4.4 million from the federal government to study vehicle crashes in metro Atlanta that result in injuries treated at Grady. The work the money will pay for includes sending crash investigators to measure and document the scene of the crash and damage to the car to help lead to research and improvements on the car as well as other ways such as improvements in signs to reduce accidents.

The Injury Prevention Research Center at Emory (IPRCE) has also received $296,500 from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to measure seat belt use rates in Georgia this year as well as examine distracted driving, a risky behavior, known to lead to fatal car crashes.

The New Year holiday is one of the most dangerous and deadliest times of the year in Georgia and across the country. Nine people were killed in crashes across the state during the recent New Year’s holiday weekend, according to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

While the most recent wrecks remain under investigation, state and local law enforcement agencies previously announced enhanced efforts to pull over drivers who appeared under the influence of alcohol. A year ago, 18 were killed during the New Year holiday.

Of the most recent nine traffic deaths around the state, five were in metro Atlanta. Early Monday, a woman was hit by a vehicle and thrown off an overpass on I-20 near Fulton Industrial Boulevard, according to the South Fulton police department.

The woman later identified as Melody Coburn, 43, was standing on the side of the interstate and was hit while her car was being loaded onto a tow truck. No details were released on whether criminal charges are expected in the crash.

In a separate crash in the Augusta area, a 3-year-old boy was killed by an alleged drunk driver, according to the state patrol. The crash happened around 9:36 p.m. Monday night on Interstate 520 westbound in Richmond County, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Troopers believe the driver of a Cadillac Escalade hit a tow truck driver and the impact killed the boy, who was in the backseat of the SUV.

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