PEMBROKE – Every year, an average of 43 people die in crashes on Robeson County roads – enough to fill two elementary school classrooms.
Today, a broad group of community leaders rolled up their sleeves to begin developing a plan for reducing roadway deaths and serious injuries from crashes. When all 100 counties are compared by the number of fatal crashes per registered vehicle, Robeson ranks as North Carolina’s deadliest county. People are dying because they are speeding, not buckling up, drinking and driving or distracted behind the wheel.
“These deaths are our friends and neighbors and even our family members. Simply put, these deaths are not acceptable,” said Grady Hunt, a state Board of Transportation member from Robeson County who is leading the effort on the Robeson County Vision Zero Task Force to combat the deadly trend.
According to the most recently available statistics for a five-year period ending in 2016, more than 40 percent of fatal crashes in Robeson involved people not wearing seat belts, and almost a third involved alcohol. With barely 1 percent of North Carolina’s population, Robeson has more than 3 percent of the state’s total fatal crashes.
The task force executive committee, which includes public officials from across the county and several institutions, met for the first time on Thursday, Feb. 15, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The committee members reviewed the crash statistics and began brainstorming local education campaigns that will seek to steer people who live and work and go to school in Robeson County into safer driving habits.
This is the first such countywide effort in the state. The N.C. Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Highway Safety Program will assist the community’s efforts by providing statistics, expertise and other resources.
“Safety is NCDOT's top priority," Transportation Secretary James Trogdon said. “We are committed to bringing all NCDOT resources to bear to help Robeson County reach their goal of zero deaths on our roadways.”
NCDOT officials hope to take successful solutions identified in Robeson County to other areas of the state as part of
North Carolina Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate highway deaths.
The committee includes Robeson County Sheriff Ken Sealey; Dr. Robin Cummings, chancellor of UNC Pembroke; District Attorney Johnson Britt; Dr. Shanita Wooten, interim superintendent, Public Schools of Robeson County; Joann Anderson, president and CEO, Southeastern Health; Sgt. Philip Collins of the N.C. Highway Patrol; Gail Albertson, transportation manager, Mountaire Farms; Dr. Kimberly Gold, president, Robeson Community College; and County Manager Ricky Harris.