MACON, Ga. — Correction: This story previously stated that there were more than 8,000 pedestrian deaths in Georgia in 2021. The correct number is 322 pedestrian deaths in Georgia in 2021.
Data from a recent study shows Georgia is one of the most dangerous for pedestrians. Smartgrowthamerica.org says more than 1,200 people were hit and killed by vehicles while walking from 2016-2020 in Georgia.
"Usually, I try to stay away from the cars. Even the sidewalk sometimes isn't safe," James Finch said.
He says growing up in Warner Robins; he knows Watson Boulevard very well -- well enough to know certain parts aren't safe for a pedestrian.
"You should use crosswalks. Don't try and be Superman and run across the road because that'll get you hit, get you hurt, get you killed," he said.
Finch says while he hasn't had a close call, he had a friend who was hit and killed.
"He got hit right here at the intersection of Carl Vinson and Watson. He was pushing a buggy. He was a real good friend of mine," he said.
The City of Warner Robins has had two pedestrian fatalities this year, while Macon-Bibb county has had eight. Georgia as a whole has been ranked by a study as one of the worst states for pedestrians. According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety preliminary numbers, there were more than 320 deaths in 2021.
"Most fatalities that occur that we have to happen each year is speed-related," Lieutenant Maurice Raines said.
Raines is with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, and he says speeding is a contributing factor of and through what's known as "Operation Southern Slowdown," they hope to break those habits.
"Operation Southern Slowdown was designed for us to be able to work the roads and let the public know that, education-wise, we were going to be out, and second, that when we're out, we're going to enforce the law," he explained.
Troopers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina share the same mission to target aggressive drivers and speeding.
"It's a twofold situation -- we need the drivers to be aware that pedestrians are out there, and pedestrians need to be aware vehicles are out there. We both, by having that kind of attitude towards it, can keep the numbers down of pedestrians being hit by a car," he continued.
Warner Robins Police Chief John Wagner says they are not a part of the Operation Southern Slowdown campaign, but they are "doing business as usual."
Sheriff David Davis with Bibb County says their HEAT and traffic units are working with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety as part of the operation, watching for speeders and distracted drivers, two of the main factors in pedestrian deaths.