In Augusta, an enforcement campaign, combined with an enhanced traffic unit established by Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree, resulted in a 50-percent reduction in traffic fatalities in 2013.
But our state is not content to rest on current numbers. The state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan includes a long-range goal of moving toward zero deaths, a national concept that has been adopted by many states. To do this, we must continue our educational and enforcement efforts.
The fiscal 2015 state budget, as passed by the General Assembly, includes $2.9 million to fund driver’s training programs for our youngest and least experienced drivers. Better preparing our young drivers will help us continue to reduce teen deaths on our roads.
The graduated driver’s license, as prescribed in the Teen and Adult Driving Responsibility Act, has resulted in fewer 16-year-olds getting their licenses. Data shows more teens are waiting until age 17 to get their driver’s licenses, opting to spend more time behind the wheel with a learner’s permit and an adult in the passenger seat to supervise.
Other challenges that Georgia must face include an increased usage of both illegal and prescription drugs by drivers. The number of cases of driving under the influence of drugs is rising annually.
The growing problem of texting and driving continues to contribute to traffic injuries and deaths. All of these require new and innovative approaches.
We must also pay attention to the number of fatalities involving people using alternative modes of transportation, such as bicyclists and pedestrians. A top priority for our agency and our partners is the education of drivers on sharing the road with those who bike, jog or walk.
Georgia has much to celebrate in the reduction of deaths on our roads, but a great deal of work remains, and it will require a partnership with the motoring public to make these numbers continue to go down.
Harris Blackwood is director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.