Distracted drivers are blamed for so many crashes, Georgia’s Legislature has created a new law aimed at restricting mobile phone use to keep eyes on the roads. But as the number of pedestrian deaths continues a steady climb, transportation experts hope to identify other factors that could bring down the numbers.
The two latest pedestrians to die in the metro area were killed within seven hours of each other late Sunday and early Monday in Fulton and DeKalb. Both men were struck and killed as they tried to cross busy streets. Neither driver stopped, according to police.
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So far this year, 111 pedestrians have been killed on state roads, according to Georgia Department of Transportation’s preliminary numbers, an increase of 16 percent from this time last year. In 2017, 260 pedestrians were struck and killed around the state.
Fulton and DeKalb counties lead the state for the most fatal wrecks involving pedestrians, according to U.S. Department of Transportation numbers.
Why so many crashes?
Two major studies released this spring indicate pedestrian crash deaths, along with hit-and-run deaths, continue to climb nationwide.
Georgia reflects the same trend. In 2017, 260 pedestrians were killed on state roads, up from 232 in 2016. And the 260 deaths last year was double the number killed in 2011, according to GDOT.
Nationally, pedestrian crash deaths have increased 46 percent since their low point in 2009 and account for 16 percent of crash fatalities, according to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The institute, a nonprofit organization focused on research and education to reduce deaths and injuries from crashes, published a study in May on pedestrian deaths. It identified some common factors in the accidents: Fatal pedestrian accidents happen most often in urban or suburban areas, are outside of intersections, and are on arterial roads — busy roads designed mainly to funnel vehicle traffic toward freeways.
Crashes were increasingly likely to involve SUVs and high-horsepower vehicles, the study found, and are more likely to occur in the dark.
“Understanding where, when and how these additional pedestrian crashes are happening can point the way to solutions,” says IIHS President David Harkey. “This analysis tells us that improvements in road design, vehicle design and lighting and speed limit enforcement all have a role to play in addressing the issue.”
Other pedestrian crashes have been blamed on a pedestrian mistake, such as not using a crosswalk when one is available.
During a two-week period in the fall, six people attempted to walk across metro Atlanta interstates, though it is illegal. In many of those cases, investigators speculated that mental instability, homelessness or substance abuse could have been involved.
“When people think about distracted driving, they just think about the driver,” Natalie Dale, GDOT spokeswoman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We also have to educate pedestrians. There are so many people not paying attention. It has to be shared responsibility.”
Georgia fourth for hit-and-runs
In a study published in April, roadside-assistance company AAA found that injury crashes are often more serious because the drivers responsible fail to stop and offer aid, which is required by law in Georgia.
In 2016, Georgia ranked fourth in the U.S. for most fatal hit-and-run crashes, the study found. Hit-and-run crashes killed a record-high 2,049 people in the U.S. in 2016, including 72 in Georgia, according to AAA.
Why do drivers flee? Experts agree there are no easy answers. Sometimes, the driver may fear going to jail or already have a criminal record, according to AAA. In Georgia, a driver convicted of hit-and-run in a fatal crash could face up to five years behind bars.
Police in DeKalb County are still searching for the driver accused in Sunday’s hit-and-run crash.Around 11:40 p.m., Martavious Cardaius Parker had finished his shift at a DeKalb McDonald’s and was walking home, according to police. Parker, 25, of Stone Mountain, was hit by a speeding vehicle as he tried to cross Rockbridge Road. He died from his injuries.
The driver accused of hitting Parker left the scene and remained on the run Wednesday, according to Shiera Campbell, spokeswoman for DeKalb police. It was not known whether Parker was in a crosswalk when he was hit.
Then on Monday morning, Demonte Franklin, 20, of Atlanta was hit and killed at the intersection of Old National Highway and Biscayne Drive, according to Ashley Minter-Osanyinbi, spokeswoman for South Fulton. Witnesses helped officers find the driver, who allegedly left the scene.
The driver, Laron Anderson, was arrested and charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, drug possession, DUI, driving with a suspended license, hit-and-run and making an improper turn, according to police. At the time of his arrest, police found warrants for Anderson from other traffic offenses.
GDOT investigators complete a report for every fatal crash to look for trends or problematic roadways, Dale said. Old National Highway is one of the areas engineers are looking at for possible improvements, she said.
“By nature, roads aren’t dangerous,” Dale said. “The things people do on roads make them dangerous.”
Georgia pedestrian fatalities
Hit-and-run deaths on Georgia roads
Staying safe on the roads
1. Be aware: Pedestrians may act unpredictably and can walk into the path of travel at any point.
2. Be cautious: Look out for small children and be alert to areas where there are likely to be more pedestrians. These include school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and intersections.
3. Be patient: When trying to pass a pedestrian or cyclist, give plenty of space and keep them in your line of sight.
4. Be vigilant: Drivers should always yield to pedestrians, even if they walk into the road from an area other than a crosswalk.
5. Be helpful. If you're involved in a crash, attempt to help anyone injured and call 911.
1. Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available, but never on an interstate.
2. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic
3. Stay alert and don't get distracted by phones or other electronic devices
4. Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
5. Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
Sources: GDOT, U.S. Department of Transportation, AAA