Officials: More to die on Georgia’s roads in 2012

ATLANTA — More motorists are expected to die on roadways in Georgia during 2012 in what would be the first increase in deaths on roadways statewide in more than five years.

So far this year, 1,013 people died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia. If the trend continues, this would exceed the 1,226 people who died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia in 2011.

“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,” Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) Director Harris Blackwood said in a statement. “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. We simply cannot afford to lose another life on Georgia’s roads this year.”

Roughly half of the fatalities on the state’s roads can be attributed to people not wearing seat belts. While 68,000 people statewide were cited during a 100-day enforcement campaign this summer for not wearing a seat belt, it apparently hasn’t stemmed the deaths.

“Wearing your seat belt is the single 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 in a statement. “It’s also an effective way to avoid getting stopped by law enforcement on your way home.”

“While Georgia’s rate of seat belt use averages above 90 percent, nearly every week, there is a fatal crash involving a person who was not properly restrained,” Blackwood said. “Seat belt use is one of the few things we have control over in our lives. Neglecting it should never be a factor in our deaths.”

So, officials hope stopped-up patrols code-named “Operation: Safe Holidays.” On Tuesday, they stopped in five cities throughout Georgia urging motorists to buckle up traveling.

“Fatal crashes frequently involve speed, an impaired driver, or the victim not being properly restrained, and sometimes it is any combination of these contributing circumstances,” McDonough said. “We want everyone to enjoy the holiday period but make traffic safety the priority while you travel.”

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