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When you think about the traffic in Atlanta, of course you would presume that more people are going to be in car accidents in Atlanta than anywhere else in Georgia. And you would be right — really right.

We are in a series based on a 2008 report issued by Georgia Department of Transportation (“DOT”), called Crash Analysis, Statistics & Information.

But we have been talking about the surprising information that other areas in Georgia have far more fatalities than the metro Atlanta does, and the difference holds true for other suburban areas throughout Georgia. The Report defines the “Metropolitan Statistical Area Counties” as being Bibb, Bryan, Catoosa, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clarke, Columbia, Dade, Dougherty, Effingham, Harris, Houston, Jones, Lee, Madison, McDuffie, Muscogee, Oconee, Peach, Richmond, Twiggs, and Walker Counties. Essentially, DOT is referring to the areas around the cities of Albany and Leesburg, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah, and the northern part of Georgia near Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the report, DOT says that it considers the Metro Atlanta area to be Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb Counties.

Metro Atlanta absolutely dominates – in a bad way — when it comes to the rate of car and truck accidents. For every one million miles driven on Atlanta road, 433 people have car wrecks. The other metro areas in Georgia are more fortunate – only 333.9 car accidents occur for every one million vehicle miles driven.

When it comes to injuries, Atlanta is again the clear “winner” – and I put that phrase in quotes for a reason. For every one million miles driven on Atlanta’s roadways, 143.0 people are injured. By contrast, only 132.8 people are injured for every one million miles driven in other metro Atlanta areas around Georgia.

But when it comes to fatalities, the other metropolitan areas have Atlanta “beaten” – and again, I have to put that word in quotes – hands down. When people drive one million vehicle miles in Atlanta, 1.14 people die. But when drivers cover one million miles in the other metro areas around Georgia, 1.65 people die.

Congestion leads to slower traffic, and DOT says that the slower traffic results in more car wreck on the bad side, but fewer fatalities in the auto accidents on the positive side. When it comes to the number of wrecks and the number of injuries, the statistics for metropolitan Georgia counties bear out that theory. But if metropolitan traffic is slower, why are there more fatalities in metropolitan Georgia (1.65 per million vehicle miles) than in suburban Atlanta (1.47 per million vehicle miles). Shouldn’t the congested highways of metropolitan areas mean that people drive slower, and therefore fewer die?

The report does not really give any answers for the numbers coming out of Georgia metro areas outside Atlanta. It simply notes that suburban counties around Atlanta have seen an increase in car wrecks but a decrease in fatalities, and that “[t]he opposite is true of MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) counties that show a decline in crashes but an increase in fatalities.” Georgia DOT Report on Car Accidents at 7.

At only 6.53%, the rate of growth in metropolitan counties outside Atlanta has been far slower and more manageable than the 31.55 population growth that the counties around Atlanta have seen. And presumably, without the increased population load, the roads and the medical systems ought to be able to handle the relatively smaller increase in drivers.

Even though I am a car accident lawyer and handle car wreck cases around Georgia, I don’t have an answer to why fatalities are increasing in metropolitan areas in Georgia, but outside Atlanta. Do you? I’d like to hear from you if you have an idea.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.