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"ChristmasI’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.)