Col. Mark McDonough, the Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Highway Safety, addresses the media Tuesday morning at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport. McDonough and Office of Highway Safety Director Harris Blackwood were on a tour of five cities promoting Operation: Safe Holidays.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Traffic fatalities in Georgia are expected to rise in Georgia in by the end of the year, marking the first increase in the state's traffic deaths in more than five years.
Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 15, 1,013 people have died in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia. The rate of traffic fatalities this year is in line to exceed that of 2011, when 1,226 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the state.
In light of the potential increase in deaths, Col. Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, and Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, launched "Operation: Safe Holidays" Tuesday in a five-city tour that they hope will stem the tide of rising traffic fatalities this year.
The pair flew into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport on Tuesday morning.
"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," Blackwood said. "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."
The potential increase in road fatalities for 2012, if realized, would come after six consecutive years of decreasing fatality rates on Georgia's roadways.
"We are on the verge of the first increase in traffic fatalities in six years," Blackwood said. "We believe that with the help of the public and law enforcement, many potential deaths can be prevented."
"The safety of our roadways impacts us all," the colonel said. "There are three things we can all do to help. No. 1, slow down, 20 percent of all accidents are due to excessive speed; No. 2, Don't drink and drive. If you are going to drink over the holidays, get a designated driver, call a friend or take a cab home. Don't get behind the wheel. No. 3, Wear your seat belt. Most fatalities occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and half of those people were not wearing seatbelts."
Federal research also shows that proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. Proper seat belt use reduces the risk of moderate to serious injuries by 50 percent.
"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," said Blackwood. "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."