ATLANTA - For the first time in nine years the state of Georgia has seen an increase in the number of people killed in car crashes, and officials believe distracted driving is to blame.
Each year for nearly the past decade, Georgia has seen a decline in traffic fatalities. But this year traffic deaths are up 12 percent, and the state of Georgia is sounding the alarm bell about it. Nationally, traffic fatalities have increased 14 percent.
"We don't want to be on par with this national trend," said GDOT Spokesperson Natalie Dale. "We don't want to see people die on Georgia roads for something as silly as a text."
Dale said 704 people died on Georgia roads through August 2014. In 2015, that number has grown to 791. While GDOT believes there are a number of factors contributing to the increasing fatality numbers, including cheaper gas prices and an improving economy, it places most of the blame on people driving while distracted.
"You cannot get in a car and text in Georgia," said Dale. "It is illegal. We are still seeing it. We're seeing a lot of distraction whether that's texting, whether that's cell phone usage, eating your breakfast, putting on your makeup."
GDOT started a program called Drive Alert, Arrive Alive to make drivers more aware of the dangers of distracted driving.
Some police departments have come up with new, creative ways to catch distracted drivers in the act. Last month, Marietta police dressed up as construction workers at a popular intersection to find people texting and driving.