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State traffic fatalities continue to fall
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Coming Sunday
The Times takes a look at local crash statistics for the past few years following a recent rash of fatal accidents.

Georgia traffic fatalities reached a 60-year low in 2011.

That was the news Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, delivered Tuesday to the Hall County Sunset Rotary Club.

Speaking before a small crowd at Poor Richard’s in Gainesville, Blackwood declared, “We are succeeding in moving the needle in the right direction.”

There were 1,234 traffic fatalities in 2011, based on early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Those were modestly down from the 1,244 fatalities in 2010, but far below the all-time high in 2005 of 1,700 people.
“That’s almost 500 more people to celebrate another Christmas, anniversary or birthday,” he said.

The Highway Safety director, who is also a Gainesville resident and a regular columnist for The Times, credits better enforcement, particularly of DUIs, for the drop in fatalities. Safer cars and roadways also play a role, he said.

The drop in Georgia traffic fatalities is part of a national trend.

Despite the state’s progress, it still ranks fifth in traffic deaths behind Texas, California, Florida and North Carolina.

That could be due to long commutes in Georgia.

“We’re such a car-driven state,” Blackwood said, estimating total annual miles driven in Georgia are 109 billion.

The Highway Safety Office’s top concerns now, Blackwood told the Rotarians, are addressing motorcycle deaths, where speed is often a factor, and teen driving, where there are continued problems with mobile phone use.

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