Georgia bad driver behavior gets the blame as traffic deaths rise

Interstate 20 near Grovetown (file photo)
Interstate 20 near Grovetown (file photo)(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 1:04 PM EST
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ATLANTA (WGCL/CBS46) - Georgia drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists are facing increasingly dangerous roads.

A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation finds fatalities rose 12% from 2020 to 2021 nationwide. This is the largest increase ever recorded since the department began tracking rates in the 1970s.

Georgia’s fatality rate was just over the national average at 12.2%.

Traffic infrastructure plays a role in safety. The Department of Transportation hopes President Biden’s infrastructure bill will pay for improvements to bike lanes, lighting, and crosswalks.

However, infrastructure is a small part of a larger problem.

“When we look at the statistics, nine times out of 10, it is driver behavior,” said Natalie Dale with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Driver behavior has grown increasingly worse during the pandemic. Dale said law enforcement has reported higher speeds on state roads.

Additionally, about 40% of fatalities reported involved people not wearing a seat belt.

Dale also said most problems stemmed from lane departures, when a driver may shift into a lane or off a road, due to distracted driving.

“In order for us to get to a place where we’re decreasing in fatalities, it has to be a partnership with both us designing safe roads and taking into account the multiple users of our roads – whether it’s motorists, pedestrians, bicycles – that we all take responsibility for safety,” said Dale.

In Atlanta, poor driver behavior seemed to have the most dangerous affect on pedestrians. The city reported an 88 percent rise in pedestrian fatalities involving a vehicle.

The reckless roads have spurred new partnership between GDOT and Lutzie 43, an organization based in Cobb County.

Lutzie 43 aims to end distracted and impaired driving by focusing on awareness and education. Mike Lutzenkirchen started the program after he lost his son, Phillip, in a distracted driving accident.

“My quest is to do what I can to make sure other parents don’t get that call,” said Lutzenkirchen.

Lutzenkirchen said he regularly discusses driving responsibly with students. The organization’s navy and orange “43″ symbol is used to trigger a behavioral change whenever a driver gets behind the wheel.

“It’ll be come the national symbol to be a smarter driver, a safer driver,” he said.

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