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Georgia's Rise in Car Accident Fatalities Called an 'Epidemic'

Georgia authorities are dealing with what they are calling a "deadly epidemic" that is sweeping the state's roadways.

According to new Georgia Department of Transportation statistics, there was a 25 percent increase in car accident fatalities the beginning of 2015 compared to 2014. This increases the average to 100 car accident deaths a month, putting Georgia on track to have more than 1,200 fatalities this year.

William Hires, coordinator of the Coastal Area Traffic Enforcement Network, called the statistics "alarming", because it will be the first increase in fatalities in nine years.

Car accident fatalities are caused by a wide variety of factors, including distracted driving, crossing streets without proper signals or crosswalks and not watching for bicyclists. So far, there have been 948 motor vehicle fatalities in Georgia this year.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety has launched campaigns, including "Below 1000 - Every Life Counts" and "Drive Alert - Arrive Alive," to wear seat belts and not text, eat or engage in any other distracting activity while driving.

What Can Be Done to Reduce Highway Fatalities in Georgia?

Law enforcement officials urge every Georgian to buckle up. Research shows properly worn seat belts can reduce the risk of fatalities by half. Of the more than 900 fatalities in Georgia this year, only 38 percent of the victims were wearing seat belts.

Seventeen of fatalities this year were bicyclists. Law enforcement officials say motorists should keep in mind that state law requires a 3-foot buffer when passing a bicyclist.

Bicyclists are reminded that they must obey all the traffic laws just like motorists. This means stopping for stop signs, driving on the right side of the road and not swerving back and forth.

Pedestrians made up 15 percent of the deaths during the first quarter - a 31 percent increase from a year ago. Pedestrians should cross at crosswalks and use sidewalks when available.

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