VERIFY | Were 373 people hit, killed in school zones?

A state lawmaker pushed some legislation forward on some powerful yet flawed data last week. What are the real numbers?

A bill advancing through the Legislature has gotten a big push from some very faulty data. 11Alive News has learned that some botched data greatly exaggerated the number of people killed in school zones. The state House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill Wednesday night.

The bill would make it much easier to ticket people speeding in school zones -- allowing cameras and speed sensors to automatically send the tickets to the owners of cars caught on camera speeding. "This is a terrible idea," Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) told House members.

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The bill was controversial when it reached the House floor late Wednesday night. But Rep. Erica Thomas (D-Austell) appeared to sway the argument.

"What's terrible is in 2015, we had 373 fatalities in school zones," Thomas said.

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The numbers were stunning -- 373 fatalities in school zones would equal more than two per day over the course of a normal 180-day school year.

"I got it from the Augusta Chronicle," Thomas said when 11Alive's Doug Richards asked about the source of her figures.

She referred to an Augusta Chronicle article from last year which quotes the vice president of the AAA auto group as saying, "in 2015, there were 373 fatalities for students and over 11,000 injuries that happened in school zone accidents."

There was the death of 4-year-old Lun Thang in a school zone in DeKalb County last year, and the death of crossing guard Edna Umeh in a school zone in Mableton in December.

But 373 fatalities in school zones in Georgia? We asked AAA to double-check their figures. This is what they found:

In 2015, there were 343 traffic fatalities involving pedestrians under the age of 18, according to AAA spokeswoman Megan Osborne. But that figure is nationwide, not just in the state of Georgia. And it is for pedestrian traffic deaths everywhere, not just in school zones.

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In 2015 in the state of Georgia, AAA says there were 14 pedestrian traffic deaths among people 18 and younger..

We talked to Thomas about it on Friday, before we learned the actual numbers.

"It does seem like a lot," she said. "We shall see. And I would love for somebody to say...that's not it."

Turns out, that's not it.

The speeding ticket bill Thomas backed passed the House narrowly, by a vote of 94 to 75. After we learned the correct numbers, Thomas says she still backs the bill because it could still save lives in school zones.

The VERIFY has found the claim that 373 people were killed in school zones to be FALSE.

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