GSP response to recent rise in wrecks - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

GSP response to recent rise in wrecks

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

The talk of making the interstates safer comes at a time when many of us are still reeling from last week's I-16 crash that killed five people. 

In fact, our highways may now be more dangerous than ever.

I spoke with a Georgia State Patrol troop commander Tuesday who told me more and more of these fatal crashes share a common denominator: a cellphone.

"We're seeing a lot of one-vehicle crashes where the driver is simply leaving the roadway and striking a tree on the side of the road, driving directly into a tree. A lot of these end up being fatal collisions, and alcohol is not a factor,” said Capt. Chris Wright, GSP.

These deadly wrecks are on the rise across the state. Nearly 700 people have died on Georgia roads so far this year - that's already more than this time last year - and about halfway to the more than 1,400 fatalities in 2015.

The growing number of people moving to the state has meant more traffic on the roads.

"And with the gasoline prices low, we're seeing even more,” said Ann Purcell, State Transportation Board member.

Purcell was one of the state representatives who voted to make texting while driving illegal in Georgia in 2010. She hopes the proposed interstate improvements will make those roads safer.

"But we also, each of us, have to take the responsibility and say, 'Hey, if we're sleepy, we need to pull over and take a break,' or just to take a break period... and if you need to text, then you need to get off of the road,” said Purcell.

But laws are only as good as their enforcement, and Georgia State Patrol needs the help. They're currently understaffed by 200 troopers statewide. That's not an excuse to speed, it's a warning because that only makes the highway that much more dangerous.

"We're getting the people coming to our state to do business, we're getting people to move into our state, but we're having a hard time meeting that demand on state law enforcement,” said Capt. Wright.

Despite the shortage, Capt. Wright says troopers will be out here in full force for the Fourth of July weekend. They'll be shifting resources to make sure they have extra troopers out enforcing traffic laws.

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