I'm an Atlanta car wreck lawyer, and I'm on a one-woman quest to see whether we can get Georgia drivers to slow down and drive more carefully over this Christmas holiday. Over the 2009 Christmas holiday (the latest data available), ten people were killed on Georgia highways over the holiday. The year 2008 was far worse: 25 people were killed in 25 car wrecks across Georgia.
As an auto accident lawyer, I have met with many families who lost a loved one in a wreck, and with people who suffered debilitating personal injuries in a car crash. But of all the things I do in my job, nothing is sadder than meeting with families who lost somebody over a holiday, and - for me - particularly families who lost someone they loved very much during the Christmas holiday.
What if we could change the numbers? What if - by driving defensively and slowing down - we could cut the number of fatal collisions in half - or lower? What an amazing accomplishment!
So as we march up to the holiday, I am going to do several blog entries about how many people die on Georgia roads each Christmas holiday, and about where the accidents happen. My hope is that the information will make Georgians more aware of the fact that driving over Christmas can be very dangerous -- and that it will prompt folks to drive more carefully this season.
I'm going to be using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which maintains a database called FARS. The FARS database (the full name is Fatality Accident Reporting System, but since that is a mouthful, for obvious reasons everybody calls it FARS) is a searchable set of facts about accidents in which someone died in one of the fifty U.S. states or in one of the U.S. territories. FARS does not contain data about serious injury accidents unless someone died in the accident. Thus, FARS misses some very serious personal injury car crashes, even ones resulting in paraplegia, quadriplegia, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, broken bones, etc. Still, the database is a one-of-a-kind way to look at the statistics and the trends in serious accidents around the United States.
NHTSA has released FARS data for 2008 and 2009, and I'm going to be talking about the car crash deaths that occurred over the Christmas holidays in those two years. The year 2009 saw ten deaths from Georgia car wrecks, which was bad enough, but in the year 2008, an astonishing 25 people were killed in car accidents in Georgia over the Christmas holidays.
Part of the reason for the difference is the way that NHTSA counts the holiday. NHTSA tracks deaths that occur around the holiday, to account for the fact that people hit the roads in the days before and after the holiday itself, in order to be able to spend Christmas Day itself with their families. In 2009, Christmas fell on a Friday, so NHTSA calculated the "holiday" as covering the 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th. By contrast, in 2008, Christmas fell on a Thursday, so NHTSA kicked off the holiday on the 24th, and ran it through the 28th.
But no matter which year you take, 2008 or 2009, both years saw a tragic number of deaths. So this Christmas season, Georgians -- drive carefully, don't drive under the influence, and drive defensively. Let's see if we can make this Christmas a lot happier for Georgia families!
(Thanks to Wong Mei Teng for the beautiful photo on this post. Mei Teng is a really talented photographer who generously posts free images on stock.xchng.)