Traffic down, but not fatalities on Georgia highways

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced traffic on Georgia highways - but not traffic fatalities. (AJC file photo)

Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, Georgia highway traffic remains below normal. But traffic fatalities have not fallen as expected, new statistics from the Georgia Department of Transportation show.

Through Thursday, 1,202 people had died on Georgia highways so far this year, compared to 1,200 fatalities during the same period last year, preliminary statistics show.

On Thursday GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said unexpectedly high fatalities are a nationwide problem. With fewer cars on the road during the pandemic, traffic is moving faster – sometimes way too fast.

But McMurry said many motorists are not slowing down as they approach construction zones, accident scenes and routine traffic congestion. That makes some crashes more deadly than they might have been when traffic was generally moving slower.

“This is not a good statistic,” McMurry told the State Transportation Board.

The pandemic has had a big impact on traffic, especially in metro Atlanta. With residents sheltering in place and many schools and businesses shuttered last spring, traffic was down as much as 50 percent on some metro highways.

By June, with the state opening up, traffic was near normal on rural interstates and highways. But it was still down 10 to 20 percent in metro Atlanta.

On Thursday, McMurry told the board that traffic is only now approaching normal levels in metro Atlanta. Regular rush-hour congestion is returning, though it still doesn’t last as long as it did before the pandemic.

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