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Area road deaths up by small margin in 2012
Strategically located traffic signals decrease reckless driving
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In a year that saw a number of serious wrecks in the area involving children, authorities say 2011 was an average year overall for fatalities on local roadways.

The latest of those wrecks occurred in late December when Gainesville High School senior Patrick Kelley was killed in a wreck on Clarks Bridge Road near Honeysuckle Road the day he turned 18.

Another wreck in August on McEver Road resulted in six serious injuries and killed a Gainesville man. Among those injured were three children.

That wreck was followed the next day by another on Mount Vernon and Jim Hood roads in North Hall that injured three siblings — ages 8, 7 and 5 — and killed 11-year-old Gabriel McCollum, a North Hall Middle School student.

Despite those wrecks, the Hall County Sheriff's Office only reports an increase of one fatality on county roads compared to the previous year.

A total of 27 people were killed in Hall County wrecks in 2011. While that figure is a small increase from 2010, it is a rise of six fatalities compared to 21 in 2009, the lowest figure of the past five years.

The Gainesville Police Department also reports a minimal increase in fatal wrecks with two in 2011 compared to one the previous year. In the past five years combined, there have been 12 fatalities within the city limits.

Kevin Holbrook, public information officer for the department, credited the low number of fatal wrecks to several factors, including an increased focus on areas of high concern.

"In the past couple of years we have focused our efforts on enforcement, as well as accident prevention," he said.

The department tracks areas throughout the city that show a high numbers of wrecks, and in turn increases patrols in those areas," Holbrook said.

"If we notice on a stretch of roadway where there has been a high volume of accidents occurring ... then we'll send those officers out there to focus on those roads," he said.

Also, he credits traffic signals strategically located throughout the city as a factor in decreasing reckless driving.

Officers conduct several safety prevention programs including the department's participation in November's Operation Rolling Thunder, sponsored by the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

The program was a three-day campaign designed to crack down on aggressive drivers. Officers also conducted seat belt and sobriety roadchecks, as well as speed patrols.

The Georgia State Patrol's Gainesville post, which patrols Banks, Hall and White counties, investigates the majority of fatal Hall County wrecks. However, the police department responds to wrecks within city limits.

The post reports a nearly 10 percent increase in traffic fatalities from 2010 to 2011. According to preliminary statistics, there were 34 fatalities in 2011 compared to 31 in 2010.

Those figures compare to 27 fatalities in 2009 and 34 in 2008.

Fatalities on Georgia highways have declined over the past five years. In 2010, 1,244 highway deaths occurred in Georgia, according to National Traffic Safety Administration statistics. That was a decline of 48 deaths or 3.7 percent from the previous year. But 2010's death toll was down by 500 from the 2005 record of 1,744.

A number of highways and state routes travel through Gainesville, but Holbrook said few serious wrecks occur in those areas.

"Those state routes are generally heavily populated, so it's harder for people to reach those high rates of speed that typically result in fatalities when they are involved in a collision," Holbrook said.


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