The number of pedestrian deaths has risen in Georgia.
The state Office of Highway Safety confirms that last year the number of people hit and killed by cars increased by 21 percent from 2014. Office Director Harris Blackwood:
'We had a terrible year last year,' said Harris Blackwood, the director of the Office of Highway Safety. 'There's no other way to describe it. We went back to levels we hadn't seen since 2008'
In 2014, 168 pedestrians were killed by cars. That number jumps to 204 in 2015. Those numbers are for the full year. Blackwood said that the last six months are preliminary but that there is no doubt deaths went up significantly.
Blackwood said more people walking on busy roads is behind the increase. He said there are a number of factors behind that.
'Lower gas prices, good weather. All of those things contribute to more and more people being out there,' Blackwood said. 'And when you have more people, you have more exposure.'
State officials will look at more messaging around the pedestrian safety, especially near bus stops in Georgia’s larger cities. Blackwood said some of the accidents occur near bus stops when people try to cross a busy road without using the crosswalk.
Bob Dallas, a former director of the Office of Highway Safety, said that a mistake that’s made is to 'blame the victim.' Dallas explained that the engineering of roadways and where crosswalks are placed is what can be changed.
'We need to engineer it in a certain way that makes it safer for the pedestrian,' said Dallas. 'There are many counter measures that we can take into account to effect change that will significantly reduce the potential for death or injury of a pedestrian and other roadway users.'
Dallas, who currently works as a consultant to the Macon-Bibb Commission on pedestrian deaths, also said that the smart phone can distract more than just the driver of a car.
'Our smart phones may be extremely smart but we are still human,' Dallas said. 'One of the biggest mistakes we make as motorists as well pedestrians or cyclists is to use our smartphones while we're moving.'
A report released this month by the Governors Highway Safety Association said that across the country the number of pedestrian deaths increased by 10 percent. That national report only looks at deaths in the first six months of 2015. It shows a dip in Georgia deaths over the first six months. Blackwood and Dallas say the increase in deaths came in the latter part of the year.