LAWRENCEVILLE, GA  (WAOK) — Public safety workers from agencies that cover Gwinnett County gathered recently to announce a joint effort in the coming weeks to combat distracted driving and pedestrian accidents.

From now through to December 28, the police will cooperate in a detail to heighten patrols and enforcement, as well as educate the public by sending out information on the dangers of distracted driving and passing flyers to walkers in the areas of Pleasant Hill Road and South Norcross Tucker Road.

The crashes with people on foot were of particular significance in the words of Chief of Police Butch Ayers, speaking to reporters at the Gwinnett County Police Department headquarters on Hi-Hope Road.
He pointed to a map made by the county fire department, showing that there have been 322 incidents with pedestrians this year. From Norcross to Braselton, Snellville to Sugar Hill, the accidents have happened all over Gwinnett.

In cases worked by Gwinnett police, eight were fatal. Seven of the eight fatal accidents were deemed to have been caused by the pedestrian. Sometimes they’re intoxicated, often jaywalking, police said.

“I as the police chief and the rest of the police chiefs here in Gwinnett County were, quite frankly, astounded by this and decided we needed to all get together and come up with a program and enforcement effort,” said Ayers.

The chief was surrounded by leaders of public safety departments from Snellville, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Suwanee, Duluth and others.

“We’re trying to save lives here,” Ayers said. “Everybody you see standing here has a genuine concern about this number of pedestrian accidents.”

And, of course, distracted driving.

In 2015, the county police department has made more than 27,000 accident reports. The agency has worked 53 fatal crashes, according to agency spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera.

The majority of the fatal accidents are believed to have resulted from drivers’ failure to maintain lane, yield, or “obey a traffic control device.”

“Several of these accidents have been caused by distracted driving in one form or another,” Pihera said.

Texting is a big concern.

That’s clear in the number of citations the department has handed out on the matter: 2,072 citations in 2013; 1,349 in 2014; and 1,217 in 2015. Pihera pointed out that texting doesn’t necessarily amount to literally sending a text message; drivers can also be cited for tinkering with music apps, games and the like.


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