In the study completed by CarInsuranceComparison.com, the Peach State landed its ranking in the bottom-third of the nation based on statistics such as fatality rates, failure to obey traffic signals and seat belt laws, drunk driving, tickets and incidents of careless driving provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Motorists Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Vermont had the best drivers, according to the study, while Louisiana had the worst.
Cobb Police Sgt. Dana Pierce said the ranking is “too subjective” for him to agree or disagree with, but said unincorporated Cobb County sees more than 19,000 car wrecks in a typical year. There were 19,198 in 2013 with 33 involving fatalities.
Smyrna saw 2,590 wrecks in 2013 with four involving death. Kennesaw had no fatalities in 2013 but 1,343 total collisions. Acworth had 830 wrecks and no deaths. The Marietta Police Department did not provide statistics by press time.
Traffic officers say distractions are a big cause of wrecks. What counts as a distraction ranges widely, Pierce said, and includes more than just the stereotype of a teenager texting while driving.
Drivers talking on cellphones, adjusting radios, eating, applying makeup or even allowing other passengers to distract them can all cause collisions.
Pedestrian deaths are also a problem in metro Atlanta.
Of the 17 pedestrians killed in Cobb between 2011 and 2013, only one was not at fault in the wreck that caused the death, Pierce said.
“They might have dashed out in traffic or they might have crossed at a non-crosswalk area,” Pierce said.
State law doesn’t allow pedestrians to cross traffic outside of a crosswalk, Pierce said, but all too often on Cobb roads, drivers are forced to slam on their breaks after a pedestrian attempted to cross through traffic.
“You have a crosswalk at every traffic signal, but we know that we can’t put a traffic light up at every corner or we’d never get anywhere with traffic here in Atlanta,” Pierce said.
Are Georgia’s drivers worse than Northerners?
It’s all something Neil Axelrod says he sees all too often on Marietta’s roads. He grew up in New York and lived in Massachusetts for 15 years, but said the bad drivers in New England pale in comparison to those who take to Southern roads.
“What I can tell you is that Georgia drivers are pervasively bad,” Axelrod said. “In the Northeast you certainly have bad drivers, but they are not pervasively bad.”
Axelrod moved to Marietta in 2007 with his wife. During the trip to their new home, he said they began to notice a shift in the attitude of those behind the wheel.
Speeding and tailgating seemed to increase, he said, while the use of turn signals decreased.
“Again, it’s not that people in other parts of the country are model drivers, but the bad driving isn’t ubiquitous. In Massachusetts, people will stay in a lane and follow at a distance as they pace their speed with yours,” Axelrod said. “They won’t come racing up at 80 mph in traffic, sit on your bumper where you have nowhere to go, and then whip to the right and cut back in to your lane, making you jam on your brakes as they unsafely wedge themselves one car ahead of you.”
Many wrecks and the traffic gridlocks that follow are caused by drivers who follow too closely, he said, giving themselves and the vehicles behind them little time to respond.
“They have no time to react and that causes a crash,” Axelrod said. “I see a lot of those types of crashes here in Atlanta on bright sunny days simply due to idiots tailgating.”
Teens now face stricter rules
A 2007 law, known as Joshua’s Law, requiring teenage drivers to complete a driver’s education course approved by the Department of Driver Services and record 40 hours — six at night — of supervised driving has made a difference in decreasing the number of teen fatalities on Georgia’s roads, said Jennifer Marletta, driver’s education specialist for Marietta/Cobb Driver’s Education.
Operated by Cobb and Marietta public school systems, Marletta’s course is approved by the state driver’s department under Joshua’s Law and will teach more than 1,500 teenager drivers this summer.
The law is named for 17-year-old Joshua Brown, who died behind the wheel in 2003 when his pickup truck hit a puddle of water in the rain and hydroplaned before hitting a tree.
Marletta says the law has cut teen driving deaths in half.
“With the implementation of the graduated licensing law … there’s been a great decrease in teen fatalities,” Marletta said.
New drivers also have to complete an alcohol and drug awareness program, she said, and can only drive family members older than 21 for the first six months they have their license.
“I don’t understand why all the states don’t get on board and require something similar,” Marletta said.
Still, she said, the number of drivers on the roads in metro Atlanta makes it difficult for teen and adult drivers to navigate safely.
Auto wrecks by the numbers:*
2011 auto wrecks:
2012 auto wrecks:
2013 auto wrecks:
Worst states for unsafe drivers:**
2. South Carolina
Best states for safe drivers:**
3. New Hampshire
*Marietta Police Department did not provide information by press time.
**Source: CarInsurance Comparison.com