By the numbers
* 0: Roadway fatalities in Forsyth County in the first quarter of 2017
* 324: Georgia roadway fatalities in the first quarter of 2017
* 1,564: Georgia roadway fatalities in 2016, a 9 percent increase from 2015
* 40,200: Roadway fatalities in the U.S. in 2016, a 6 percent increase from 2015
Every day, Forsyth County deputies —like many other law enforcement officials across the state — respond to calls about auto accidents, ranging from highways to back roads to bridges.
Since November, however, the county has not seen any roadway fatalities, marking an abnormal trend, according to Deputy Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Though the sheriff’s office did not have crash fatality data for the same time period for past years, Rainwater said this is unprecedented, and he speculated there could be a myriad of contributing factors.
“There’s really not a [single] reason why there haven’t been any fatalities,” he said. “A possibility could be people are taking heed and not driving and drinking — that’s a huge factor. Alcohol-related deaths are a big source.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, drunk driving accounts for about one-third (31 percent) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States, killing 9,967 people in 2014, the most recent year for which the CDC has data.
In Georgia, the number of alcohol-related driving fatalities is closer to one-fourth, or 26 percent, according to the anti-drunk driving organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or MADD.
In Forsyth County, that number is even lower — 23 percent — based on data from an annual drunk driving reenactment program, Ghost Out, which is put on by Forsyth County Schools and a handful of the county’s emergency response agencies.
Despite the lower numbers in Georgia and Forsyth County, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) “Drive Alert. Arrive Alive” campaign says 65 percent of roadway fatalities involve a driver failing to maintain their lane, which Rainwater said is one of the strongest indicators of drunk or impaired driving.
Alcohol is not the sole contributor to driving fatalities.
Driver behavior accounts for nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of roadway deaths, GDOT said, citing distracted driving, impaired driving and driving too fast for conditions.
Rainwater said local drivers may be paying more attention than they have in the past, thus contributing to the lack of county road deaths.
“Maybe we are having more attentive drivers on the roads,” he said. “There’s no solid reason why fatalities are down, but maybe the ads about texting and driving are starting to pay off.
“We really haven’t done anything differently, but maybe citizens are just paying more attention to driving than they previously were. Technology now is huge in terms of having Bluetooth and hands-free capabilities, so that could be playing a part.”
People may also be slowing down, which decreases the likelihood of crashes.
“The simple fact is that as traffic gets more congested, speeds go down,” Rainwater said. “We have more congestion and construction in the county and the slower you go, your chances rise significantly that you won’t be involved in a [fatal] traffic accident.
“But, as always, don’t drink and drive, put down your phone and use Bluetooth if you need to talk.”