LUMBERTON – For a second straight year, the number of traffic deaths decreased in Robeson County.
The news was announced Thursday at a task force meeting for Robeson County Vision Zero, a coalition of community leaders who want to reduce roadway deaths.
“This is really encouraging news to see more lives being saved,” said Grady Hunt, a Robeson County resident and a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation who leads the task force. “Our task force has been working hard these last two years, but we still have a ways to go.”
According to preliminary figures compiled by the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Mobility & Safety Division, 43 people died in crashes across the county in 2019. The year before, 48 died; and in 2017, the figure was 53.
The task force was formed in early 2018 with a mission of changing the driving culture of Robeson County. People are dying in crashes, in large part, because they are speeding, drinking and driving and not wearing seat belts. Robeson County consistently has the worst overall crash ranking in the state, according to various crash data analyzed by the NCDOT’s Mobility & Safety Division. The crash ranking is based on reported crashes, crash severity, crash rates, registered vehicles and other factors.
Bus Advertising Campaign
Also Thursday, Hunt announced a new marketing campaign aimed at getting people to buckle up. A vinyl wrap, or banner, will go on the outside of four buses used by South East Area Transit System, or SEATS, which is an arm of Robeson County government.
The banner includes the message, “Don’t rob Robeson County of more lives,” and has a picture of a seat belt with red straps against a navy blue background.
“These buses travel all over our county, so this will be another tool to educate people of the dangers of not wearing a seat belt,” Hunt said.
The banners will go up in February for a six-month campaign, thanks to $2,400 in funding approved by the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), which is under the N.C. Department of Transportation that has been assisting the task force’s efforts. The SEATS buses run on demand, or by appointment, and they sometimes travel outside the county.
In fatal crashes from 2014-18 within Robeson County, 40.3 percent involved people not wearing seat belts, among other factors. The statewide average for the same period was 30 percent.
To help educate people of the importance of wearing a seat belt, the GHSP is funding a seat belt safety curriculum through Southeastern Health. Since the classes began last fall, 92 people have taken the free, two-hour course and passed, allowing them to have their seat-belt violations dismissed by the local district attorney’s office. The details of the program and how to sign up are found in this NCDOT news release.