Everyone I know, including me, thinks they’re a good driver and an example of safety, experience and confidence behind the wheel. But national highway safety data shows the safe outcome of our daily trip home may also be very much influenced by the primary rule of real estate: Location, location, location.
For instance, given a choice, which would you think is a more deadly driving challenge — negotiating a congested, multi-lane interstate highway or riding on a rural roadway? The surprising truth is the latter. Crash data shows Georgia’s rural roads are actually more dangerous than our busy interstates.
Although only one quarter of the nation’s population lives in rural areas, the number of deadly crashes out on country roads actually accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities. That number is simply too high. And unfortunately, the deadly calculus continues each year in Georgia. Last year, 342 people died in crashes in the five metropolitan Atlanta counties. Compare that with 527 fatal crashes in Georgia’s most rural counties.
Likewise, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all Americans driving or riding on rural roadways face a much greater risk of being injured or killed in traffic crashes than those in urban or suburban areas.
We need to put the brakes on Georgia’s rural road fatalities. We can do it now and we can do it without reinventing the wheel. But to make our rural roads safer, we must help all drivers understand there are two major factors behind this disparity in Georgia’s urban and rural highway fatality rates.
One factor is the way many rural roads are constructed. Compared to the safety of limited access highways, rural roads can greatly increase the risks of a fatal crash. Rural roads frequently become fatal crash sites because they’re often narrow, two-lane roads with no physical barriers or division separating oncoming traffic. Add the element of frequent entering and exiting traffic and it creates a formula for fatalities. That’s why we always need to buckle up.
And that is why the other major factor is safety belts. Safety belt use in rural areas consistently trails the national average on urban highways. In 2007, 1,252 people died on Georgia’s state and county roads, compared with 235 deaths on our interstates .
That’s why we’re sending the statewide Click It or Ticket message loud and clear to all drivers and passengers, with a special enforcement emphasis on unbuckled drivers in rural areas. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety is launching a special, high-visibility Click It or Ticket campaign to buckle-down on all motorists not buckling up, especially those in rural areas.
The special rural roadway enforcement emphasis will begin in conjunction with the state of Georgia’s annual November Click It or Ticket campaign. If we could just get all occupants of all cars and pickups to wear their safety belts the killing, maiming and injuring of hundreds of Georgians involved in crashes in our rural counties each year could be prevented. Failure to wear safety belts leads to an estimated 5,760 additional pickup truck injuries in Georgia and costs Georgians $346 million in related health care costs and economic losses. Deaths involving pickup truck occupants statistically also have a greater occurrence on rural roads. And because of the higher center of gravity, there’s a higher risk of vehicle rollover and occupant ejection during a pickup truck crash. Nearly three-fourths of Georgia pickup truck occupants killed are not restrained.
Seat belts clearly save lives, but unfortunately too many Georgia drivers, particularly those in our rural counties, still need a tough reminder. So remember, no more warnings. No more excuses. No matter who you are or where you drive, be sure to click it, if you don’t want to risk a ticket.-Click It or Ticket.
Bob Dallas, Director
Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety