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Macon-Bibb among deadliest counties in Georgia for pedestrians

In this Telegraph file photo, Bibb County Sheriff's fatality investigators gather evidence along the 3100 block of Broadway in south Macon where a log truck hit a pedestrian on Dec. 10, 2014.
In this Telegraph file photo, Bibb County Sheriff's fatality investigators gather evidence along the 3100 block of Broadway in south Macon where a log truck hit a pedestrian on Dec. 10, 2014. bcabell@macon.com

The number of people who are hit and killed by vehicles while walking in Macon-Bibb County surprised Lisa Dawson.

The director of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Injury Prevention Program looked at the county-ranked data from 2008-2012, the most recent information available, and saw something she called “concerning.”

“We are always interested in variations from the patterns that we expect, and one of the things that popped out at us was that we would not have expected, outside of metro Atlanta, to have as high a rate as Macon-Bibb County does,” Dawson said. “That’s something that really caught our attention.”

Over the five-year period Dawson reviewed, Bibb County had 30 pedestrian deaths, ranking it the seventh most deadly Georgia county for walkers in terms of number of incidents.

If you look at the per-capita rate, Macon-Bibb ranks much worse. With 3.86 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents, it had the second highest rate among all counties in the state. The No. 1 spot was Burke County, a rural area south of Augusta with a much smaller population and nine deaths from 2008-2012.

As Macon-Bibb Health Department administrator Nancy White said, the second-worst showing is “not an area you really want bragging rights in.”

To put Macon-Bibb’s 3.86 rate in context, Georgia’s statewide per-capita rate of pedestrian fatalities from 2008-2012 was 1.57, slightly above the national average for states over that period.

Comparing counties similar in size and demographics to Macon-Bibb, Augusta-Richmond County’s rate was 3.49, Chatham County’s was 2.03 and Columbus-Muscogee County’s was 1.36.

Statewide data for 2013 and 2014 is not yet available. However, in Macon-Bibb County, the problem shows no signs of abating. It was a particularly bad year in Macon-Bibb in 2013, with 10 pedestrian fatalities. Eight walkers died in 2014, and four have been killed so far in 2015.

Mapping by Carl Williams, Center for Collaborative Journalism

In most of the accidents in the two-year period examined, dangerous pedestrian behaviors -- such as walking while intoxicated -- appear to have been the immediate culprit. However, traffic experts say these kinds of accidents are all but inevitable in urban landscapes that look the way Macon does.

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