We are in a series on statistics about car wrecks in Georgia. The series is based on a 2008 Georgia DOT report, Crash Analysis, Statistics & Information, which I find especially interesting since I am a car accident attorney in Atlanta.
The report has some surprising news about car wrecks in Suburban Atlanta, v. in metro Atlanta. For purposes of its report, the Georgia DOT put five counties in the “Atlanta Metro” category: Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett. It put fifteen counties into the category of “Atlanta Suburban counties”: Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Henry, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton Counties.
The report observed that the population growth had been high in Atlanta – 15.63% — but absolutely extraordinary in suburban Atlanta – 31.5%.
Given that so many more people were on the roads in suburban Atlanta, you might expect that suburban Atlanta would have more car crashes, and in sheer numbers, it did. In 2000, suburban Atlanta had 41,005 crashes, and by 2006, the number had increased to 51,766. Even the rate of car accidents per million miles driven increased from 274.9 to 284.9.
Still, the number of car wrecks was much lower in suburban Atlanta than in metro Atlanta. For every one million vehicle miles driven on Atlanta metro roads, 433 accidents occurred. In suburban Atlanta, only 284.9 accidents occurred per million vehicle miles.
You also might have expected that suburban Atlanta had a lower rate of injuries in car accidents than metro Atlanta did. In suburban Atlanta, 117.3 people were injured per million vehicle miles, whereas 143.0 people were injured in metro Atlanta in the same number of miles.
But when it comes to fatalities, you might be surprised by what the statistics show. For every million vehicle miles driven in metro Atlanta, there are 1.14 fatalities in car accidents. For every million vehicle miles driven in suburban Atlanta, there are 1.47 deaths in car or truck wrecks.
Doesn’t this statistic contradict the conclusion that the Georgia DOT puts forth over an over again in its report: “Increased population leads to more crashes but bumper to bumper traffic leads to slower speeds which reduce the severity of injury.” If the population in suburban Atlanta counties increased dramatically, shouldn’t there have been fewer fatalities, not more?
The Georgia DOT does not clearly answer the obvious question, but it does give us some hints about why deaths increased in the suburban counties of Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Coweta, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Henry, Newton, Paulding, Pickens, Rockdale, Spalding and Walton.
The growth in the suburban counties has been absolutely extraordinary – beyond what the counties could keep up with, much less anticipate. The report tells us that small, two-land roads are “a problem in emerging suburbs that often are not prepared for massive increases in population with their limited funding resources and infrastructure.” So, in the suburban counties, the infrastructure – including medical and health resources, emergency vehicles, and roadways – has lagged far behind the explosive population growth. When more people are put onto dangerous roads, without any increase in quick access to emergency or medical care, the tragic result is that more people die.