LUMBERTON – Vehicle crashes in Robeson County claimed 69 lives last year, and the leaders of a local driver safety task force have pledged to redouble their efforts to curb the disturbing trend.
“These numbers should appall all of us,” Grady Hunt, a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation, told the Robeson County Vision Zero task force on Thursday. “The tragedy is these deaths could have been prevented, if drivers and their passengers had taken simple steps to be safer.”
Speeding and not wearing seat belts are driving up the highway deaths, according to a recent analysis by the Traffic Safety Unit of the N.C. Department of Transportation. The single biggest contributing cause is a vehicle veering off the roadway or leaving its lane and striking a stationary object, another vehicle or simply rolling over.
Most of the traffic deaths were in rural areas outside of town and on two-lane roads with a 55 mph speed limit.
Hunt leads the task force, which aims to reduce highway deaths through various initiatives. The task force of elected and appointed officials met Thursday at the Robeson County Emergency Operations Center.
Rising Traffic Deaths
Robeson County isn’t alone. Statewide and nationally, more people are dying in crashes. In North Carolina, the number of traffic deaths increased from 2020 to 2021 by 6%. However, in Robeson County, the increase for that period was 30%.
The chart below shows the number of traffic deaths by year:
“We need to buckle down on our collaborative approach that emphasizes engineering, education, enforcement and emergency response for Robeson County,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program
. “And we all need to do our part by slowing down, wearing seat belts in every seat, and never driving distracted or intoxicated.”
Over the past two years, a disproportionately high number of fatal crashes in Robeson County (43%) involved people not wearing seat belts, compared to the statewide average (32%).
According to the NCDOT analysis, the fatal crashes in Robeson County over the past two years disproportionately affected males who were in their 20s and 30s.
The NCDOT has taken several steps since 2017 to improve highway safety in Robeson County, including:
Reviewing 26 routes and 208 curves for potential Chevron signs;
Placing high-visibility, longer-lasting pavement markings on 66 routes totaling 220 miles;
Reviewing 55 routes for a speed limit reduction; and
Improving the safety of 25 intersection, such as by adding all-way stops, turn lanes and roundabouts.