Why are some roads more dangerous than others?

It’s frustrating when there are years of statistical data proving that specific streets are more dangerous than others. 

It’s even more disturbing that people living in communities surrounded by dangerous streets have memories of severe and fatal traffic collisions etched in their minds. This “High-Injury Network” was researched by Georgia Tech graduate student John Saxton.

Did you know that roughly 88% of deaths and severe injuries happen on only 8% of our streets? Or that just ten High-Injury Network streets account for 1/3 of all traffic fatalities in Atlanta during the study period researched by Saxton. 

The report findings note that most of these streets are located in Atlanta’s south and west sides and are also state routes. Certain roads are more dangerous because of the values and design policies that go into making them. 

So what makes certain roads more dangerous for people walking, biking, and driving?

- High speeds: Above all else, some road design makes drivers feel more comfortable driving at high rates of speed. That usually means there are multiple or wider lanes and more gradual curves, so drivers don’t have to slow down. Ideally, they have medians or center turn lanes, but not always. These types of roads are sometimes state routes and typically are controlled by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

- Lots of driveways and potential conflicts: Higher speeds by themselves aren’t as much of an issue on an expressway where people aren’t allowed to walk, or a rural area where people walking alongside roadways is rare. The problem is when these high-speed roads are lined by a variety of uses, as they are in most cities. People that drive and people walking can come into conflict due to the number of driveways on these types of roads in cities. Residences, businesses, schools, churches, and other destinations are all places that people need to visit, whether they drive or not. 

- Lack of pedestrian and LIT infrastructure (LIT stands for Light Individual Transportation, which includes bikes, scooters, and other small wheels): At worst, many of these roads have no sidewalks. At best, they may have sidewalks, but few crosswalks or poor crosswalks that most drivers ignore. If your destination is on one side of a busy road, but the bus drops you off on the other side, you have to make a decision. Do I walk possibly miles out of the way to find a legal crossing, or do I take my chances crossing where it’s most convenient? (Example: here’s a stretch of Fulton Industrial Boulevard served by MARTA buses and lined with thousands of jobs. But there is no crosswalk for 3.6 miles.). If there is a bike lane, it may be a painted line next to high-speed travel lanes, with no protection at intersections or driveways from turning vehicles

With the recent loss of two lives on roads controlled by GDOT— William Alexander (37-year-old) on W. Peachtree Street and Jermaine JJ Wallace Jr. (14-year-old) on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway—it’s past time to implement solutions on city streets that are also state routes. There are proven ways to address the dangers along these roads. 

We’re calling for State and City officials to work together to:

  1. Reduce speeding and speed limits,
  2. Update road design in urban areas to configurations that are safe for all users, and
  3. Listen to and value the experiences and input of the communities who are most affected.

We must tell officials to act with haste and install measures to make streets safe for residents and all people commuting on these roads

Here are five ways you can act:

  1. To start, seek out your neighborhood organization or NPU to find out if there is a transportation committee or other group that is already working on the problem. 
  2. Contact your elected officials, starting with your local councilmember. Even if it’s a state route, they need to hear about your concerns. Council members may inform you of what they’re already working on and how you can get involved.
  3. If you’re not able to find anyone else who shares your concerns, you can contact the Georgia Department of Transportation or the City Department of Public Works. We’re not going to lie. It can be frustrating to track down the right person. Be prepared for a lot of time on the phone and a few emails.
  4. If it’s a state route (usually there will be a white number on the map, or you can look here), contact your state elected officials. Your Georgia Representative or State Senator can be a great resource for connecting you with the right officials.
  5. Contact (and support) Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. We’re working every day to advocate for streets that are safer for all users. We're here to hear your concerns, connect you with other advocates in your area, and help you develop a strategy to make your streets safer. We’re also working on a wide range of long-term policy changes with the state and the City. But that takes time, resources, and support from people like you.