FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Last year, 23 people lost their lives on Forsyth County’s roadways, and since 2002, there have been 180 who were killed on the county’s roadways.
There were many factors that contributed to the high number of fatalities, from alcohol to distracted drivers and pedestrians who were struck, which count toward road fatalities, said Forsyth County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Shelton, with the traffic specialist unit.
“We had four pedestrians out of the 23,” Shelton said. “That’s the highest number of pedestrians we’ve had in the last 10 years. Typically, we don’t see four pedestrian deaths in a year.”
Many of the road fatalities in 2012 and previous years were due to speeding on low-speed or rural roads.
“We can’t pinpoint one reason, like they were all DUI-related or they were all distracted drivers,” Shelton said.
One of the fatalities last year happened on Ga. 400.
“Anytime you have [traffic congestion], people can’t get the speed, so when people are able to speed up, that’s when fatalities occur, usually in rural areas or intersections,” Shelton said.
The most road fatalities last year took place on Dawsonville Highway, or Hwy. 53.
There were four fatalities reported there within a mile of each other. There’s also an abundance of big trucks that travel Hwy.53, hills, curves and roadways that intersect with Dawsonville Highway.
“It’s a highly travelled road,” Shelton said. “It’s not a congested roadway…congestions reduce speed, which reduces fatalities. Anytime you have a lot of 18-wheeler traffic, you increase the risks of something to occur.”
This year, one road fatality has been tallied. On Jan. 8, Howard B. Nichelson, 61, of Canton, died of injuries he sustained in a Jan. 4 head-on crash on Canton Highway, near the Cherokee County line.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office participates in about 10 programs a year, including motorcycle safety day, PRIDE, or Parents Reducing Injuries and Driver Error, where deputies teach young drivers; and the sheriff’s office has teamed up with Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to enforce HEAT — Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic — to reduce impaired and aggressive drivers.
“We are always doing driver awareness programs in school and through community outreach,” Shelton said.
Being aware of surroundings and being a defensive driver is extremely important in road safety, Shelton said.
“A lot of people don’t take it serious,” Shelton said. “You should always be a defensive driver, because you never know what the person next to you is doing, or the person coming at you. Being a defensive driver makes you more prepared mentally and the greater chance you have of avoiding a collision.”
Distracted drivers not paying attention to the road due to their cellphones, global positioning devices or iPads have become a large contributing factor in accidents and fatalities.
“It’s an inherent danger anytime you start messing with those devices,” Shelton said. “Putting on makeup, reading books going down the roadway. We’ve seen people in the morning going down Ga. 400 in traffic, reading the newspaper. This just increases your chances of being in an accident.”