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Georgia pedestrian deaths spike; Macon-Bibb review board plans strategy

‘Vision Zero’ for safer Macon streets

As the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Fatality Review Board strives to reduce deaths, the former director of Sonny Perdue's Governor's Office of Highway Safety, explains the "Vision Zero" approach to preventing deaths.
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As the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Fatality Review Board strives to reduce deaths, the former director of Sonny Perdue's Governor's Office of Highway Safety, explains the "Vision Zero" approach to preventing deaths.

The number of pedestrian deaths across the country increased about 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, but Georgia's numbers went up about 21 percent.

Georgia is likely the leader in the increase in pedestrian crash deaths, attorney Bob Dallas told the Macon-Bibb Pedestrian Fatality Review Board during its monthly meeting Tuesday.

"What that tells us is a lot more people are walking. There is more exposure and the risks associated with being a pedestrian, obviously as the most vulnerable user, is high," said Dallas, who served as Gov. Sonny Perdue's director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.

Dallas is advocating the national Vision Zero approach to reducing fatal traffic accidents to none.

He believes a six-prong approach will help communities save the lives of walkers, runners, cyclists and motorists.

Engineering better roads, educating the public, enforcing laws and the life-saving skills of emergency medical services have been touted nationally to reduce fatalities, but Dallas adds two more: evaluating risks and problem areas and the equitable distribution of resources.

"If we do things the way we did before, when we construct our roads, then we can expect the same results," Dallas told the board at the Macon-Bibb Government Center. "We also have to stop blaming the victim. ... Sometimes it is behavior, and we've got to deal with that behavior."

For example, if there is a high concentration of bars in a community, safety fences could keep intoxicated patrons from getting into the street, he said.

Committee member Violet Poe is developing a Cross the Walk campaign that will focus on teaching youths and adults to use crosswalks.

Working with a $5,000 grant, Poe is designing mascots that will visit schools, summer camps and other community gatherings.

She will be looking for volunteers --at least 21 years old -- who would be willing to make public appearances to promote pedestrian safety.

Poe surveyed people walking on the street and learned that many of them either didn't see a crosswalk or didn't feel like walking extra steps to it. She has been recruiting businesses to help spread the word.

"People are really interested in partnering with us on this," Poe told the board Tuesday.

In the area of evaluation, Brad Belo, a planner with the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, has mapped the 950 incidents with vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists between 2003 and 2015.

The computer mapping program highlighted "hot spots" on Pio Nono Avenue, Anthony Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Shurling Drive.

In the coming weeks, the board will study those areas and develop plans to enhance safety in those corridors.

On June 17, the Macon campus of Middle Georgia State University will host a statewide summit with Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety, which works to bring about pedestrian friendly policies, plans and street designs. A speaker at the conference also will conduct a safety assessment of downtown Macon.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.

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