The state of Georgia, including the Atlanta area, has seen far too many fatalities from highway accidents over the years. Of course, to those injured or killed in crashes and their families, even one incident is too many. Yet, the recent rise in highway fatalities in Georgia is being called a deadly epidemic by law enforcement officials.

In the first quarter of 2015, there was a 25 percent increase in highway fatalities compared to last year, according to statistics released by the Georgia Department of Transportation. That means that the monthly average of fatalities is approximately 100. If that average holds, Georgia will have 1,200 fatalities this year. There have been at least 948 so far. That’s 141 more than at the same point in 2014.

Naturally, officials are very concerned about this. The statistics show the first increase in highway fatalities that Georgia has had in nine years. The increase is attributed to distracted driving, motorists not paying careful attention to bicyclists and pedestrians crossing streets without proper signals.

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has launched multiple campaigns to minimize fatalities. The campaigns remind people to wear their seat belts and to not engage in activities that result in distracted driving, like texting, eating, or programming a GPS device.

This is particularly important because 60 percent of the highway fatalities only involve one vehicle. The drivers of those vehicles are hitting fixed objects like trees, culverts, and bridges. While weather and highway conditions may play a part, this indicates that distracted driving is undoubtedly a significant contributing factor.

For that reason, it behooves all Georgia drivers to watch what they’re doing and only drive when they’re fit to do so. Following that simple piece of advice will save lives.

Source: WJXT Jacksonville, “Georgia’s rise in highway fatalities called epidemic,” Heather Leigh, Sep. 22, 2015