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Officials emphasize safety on Forsyth roads

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For a complete list of events, dates and times scheduled for the Making a Safer Forsyth Tour, visit

FORSYTH COUNTY — Top state and local officials gathered Wednesday to kick off a campaign aimed at improving safety on Forsyth County roads.

“We’re concerned,” said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. “I want to make sure we are doing all we can ... we hope that when we leave here on Saturday, that Forsyth County is a little bit safer.”

The “Making a Safer Forsyth Tour,” which runs through Saturday, is visiting various schools, businesses and facilities this week to promote highway safety initiatives.

Speaking at a ceremony Wednesday outside the local campus of Lanier Technical College, Blackwood cited the 144 percent increase in fatalities on Forsyth roads between 2009 and ’12, when there were 22 traffic deaths.

Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper said his deputies “can always use the helping hand of education” to promote safety.

District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, talked about a state law he authored to ban texting while driving, a measure he said has since been supported by businesses and organizations.

“Teenagers [were] getting killed at a really, really fast rate,” he said. “It’s not smart to give up your life for that five seconds.”

Murphy the initiative is “going to work even better” if more people get behind it.

District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, a fellow Forsyth County Republican, said teenagers especially “lose sight on the impact” they have while driving.

Hamilton said the tour is a great way to “get the message out to be more safe.”

Pete Amos, who chairs the Forsyth County commission, highlighted the county’s fire department, which said has inspected “over 365 car seats last year alone.”

Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans noted that the tour will reach about 15,000 of the school system’s 40,000 students. While that’s more than a third, he said the message will spread.

“This community has made safety a priority. It gets drilled into the culture,” he said.

Bobby Cagle, the commissioner for Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, mentioned an incident in which a child died on a hot school bus at a private day care in Atlanta after staff forgot about her.

It’s something he said he’s committed to “make sure no child is ever left in a vehicle.”

“If you see a child locked in a vehicle, make sure to call 911 immediately,” he said.

Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mark McDonough, a colonel in the Georgia State Patrol, said his department was the first to have every trooper trained for car seat installation.

During a recent eight-year time frame, the state’s fatality rate dropped by about a third, according to McDonough. He thanked local law enforcement for its commitment to public safety.

“Our job in patrol is to support the sheriff in that effort,” he said.

Of the many events this week, Blackwood said his office has “a lot going on in this county.”

The effort began Tuesday night with Family Night at Chick-fil-A in Lanier Crossing and continued Wednesday with educational presentations at Settles Bridge and Cumming elementary schools, South Forsyth Middle School and Central Park.

Blackwood said the events feature teams of certified personnel who deliver messages about child passenger safety and the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.

Thursday, educational presentations are scheduled for Whitlow Elementary and Riverwatch, Lakeside, Little Mill and Vickery Creek middle schools. There also will be a stop at Sexton Hall Enrichment Center, with CarFit technicians talking to senior citizens about issues affecting older drivers.

Friday’s tour will include visits to North Forsyth, Otwell and Piney Grove middle schools, Kelly Mill Elementary and South Forsyth High.

A bicycle safety event will be held Saturday at Fowler Park, along with a car seat safety check event at Walmart on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming.

The safety check, set for noon to 3 p.m., will include trained child safety seat technicians from state agencies, fire departments, law enforcement agencies and nonprofits ensuring that child seats are properly installed.

Blackwood hopes the tour will leave a positive impact on Forsyth.

“It’s all about safety, folks,” he said.