LUMBERTON – The N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program announced Thursday it has awarded two grants in Robeson County that will beef up law enforcement in high-crash areas and create a DWI treatment court.
The grants support the mission of the Robeson County Vision Zero Task Force, which formed in 2018 to eliminate traffic deaths in the county. Robeson County experiences above-average traffic deaths each year due in large part to lack of seat belt usage, drunk driving and speeding.
“We are happy to fund these worthy pilot programs through a competitive grant process,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program, which is an arm of the NCDOT. “We want to do what we can to improve highway safety and support this unique task force.”
The grants cover one year beginning Oct. 1. They went to:
- Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, $347,056, to create a three-person DWI traffic task force. The task force will enable stepped-up law enforcement in high-crash areas and safety education programs; and
- Robeson County District Attorney’s Office, $192,285, to create a DWI treatment court. The treatment court will fast-track DWI cases targeting repeat offenders and offering defendants alcohol and substance abuse treatment and other counseling.
The new grants were highlighted Thursday during a task force meeting at the Robeson County Emergency Operations Center. The funds are in addition to two other recurring grants being used by the Lumberton Police Department and the State Highway Patrol to address drunk driving in the county.
The task force also received updates Thursday from the N.C. Department of Transportation on how the construction of roundabouts and the conversion of intersections into all-way stops have improved safety. Research has shown that roundabouts and all-way stops have reduced traffic crashes by about 50 percent, and both designs also reduce the severity of crashes.
“The NCDOT is making these kind of engineering improvements based on the data, and these changes can make a real difference,” said Grady Hunt, who leads the task force and represents the Robeson County area on the N.C. Board of Transportation. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to change the driving culture of our community in order to save more lives.”