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For Emily’s Sake

June 18, 2015

Every morning when I get to my office, one of the first things I see is the daily fatality report.  It gives a comparative look at the victim’s name and age, location and time of the collision.  It is a sobering report and I often think of the families that are left to mourn these deaths. I say a prayer for them and I hope that they can find some peace. 

On April 22, the news that 5 students from my alma mater were killed in a crash on I-16 was hard.  The news became even more unbearable when we learned that Emily Clark, the daughter of a long-time GDOT employee Kathy Clark, was one of the students killed.  Emily Clark and the other young ladies lost their lives in a tragic accident on I-16.   

Since the beginning of this year, there has been a 25% increase in traffic fatalities in Georgia, compared to the first 3 months of 2014. With an average of 100 deaths a month, we are on track for 1,200 or more fatalities in 2015. Even more appalling, this would be the first increase in annual fatalities Georgia in 9 years!

Since the beginning of this year, 60% of all roadway fatalities in Georgia are from single vehicle crashes – single vehicles hitting a fixed object like a tree, culvert or bridge; 69% of all roadway fatalities in Georgia are from drivers failing to maintain their lane; and only 38% of victims in fatality crashes were wearing seatbelts. Overall, approximately 79% of these fatalities are the result of driver behavior — drivers & passengers not wearing a seatbelt, driving impaired, drivers speeding and driving distracted.

We must do something to reverse this trend.  On May 11, Georgia DOT launched a year-long statewide safety campaign to encourage, implore and appeal to all motorists across the state to Drive Alert and Arrive Alive!  We joined with our partners from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Georgia State Patrol, local governments and municipalities, to echo this one message – Drive Alert and Arrive Alive! 

The goal of this campaign is to turn the tide on the increasing number of fatalities on our state routes and interstates and to educate drivers about simple changes they can make in their driving behavior to prevent crashes, improve safety and decrease fatalities.

If you think that you cannot help to reduce fatalities in Georgia, you are wrong.  You can.  We all can! We can take responsibility to protect ourselves, our passengers, other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.  We MUST drive responsibly! It’s easy as 1-2-3.  

  1. Buckle up … Always wear a seat belt no matter how far you drive [it’s the law].
  2. Stay off the phone and mobile devices … If possible, shut off the phone to avoid temptation [even hands-free use is a distraction] and no texting [Georgia law bans texting and driving]. Just focus on driving,
  3. Drive alert … Do not drive drowsy or impaired.

These actions are simple and easy to do.  And when you think of the impact that each of us can make — the impact of saving a life — it shouldn’t be hard for us to take action. 

Five mothers and fathers lost their beautiful daughters on April 22.  And countless other families suffer the same fate daily.   These fatalities not only tear apart families, they devastate communities and break our hearts. 

So Drive Alert and Arrive Alive.  For Emily’s sake….commit to these simple and easy actions when you get behind the wheel.  Buckle up; stay off your mobile devices and drive alert.

We all must take responsibility and understand that the life we save just might be our own.  Or that of someone we love.

About the Author

Russell McMurry was appointed Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation on Jan. 20, 2015. Commissioner McMurry began his career with the Georgia Department of Transportation in 1990, as an engineering trainee, and has served in a variety of roles throughout his career. His experience ranges from serving as Construction Project Manager to District Engineer for 5 years. At the State level, he served as State Roadway Design Engineer, while also serving in a joint role as the Assistant Division Director of Engineering. Commissioner McMurry is a Cum Laude graduate of Georgia Southern University and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Georgia.

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