Traffic deaths in North Carolina were more likely in accidents occurring in rural counties and those that border South Carolina or Virginia, according to a AAA Carolinas analysis of 2008 crashes.
Hertford, Tyrrell, Columbus, Robeson and Lenoir counties top AAA’s list of dangerous counties for 2008 fatalities, the latest year for which statistics are available. These five counties represented eight percent of 2008 traffic deaths but only three percent of the state’s total vehicle miles traveled.
Rural roads are generally narrow, with lower shoulders, less police presence than major highways and have more curves. It is also more difficult to enforce traffic laws when violators cross state lines and traffic enforcement efforts vary from state to state.
“Safety is our number one priority, and we’re working hard to make our roads as safe as possible,” Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said. “Motorists can do their part by slowing down, paying close attention, never drinking and driving, and always wearing their seat belts, which is their best defense if they’re in a crash.”
Pitt County was the most dangerous for having a traffic collision in 2008, and was second most dangerous the previous year, according to the crash analysis. Pitt County roads logged 2 percent of all state crashes (4,259), while only accounting for 1.3 percent of vehicle miles traveled.
Additionally, two percent of the state’s injury crashes (2,227) and 25 (1.7 percent) of the state’s 1,452 traffic fatalities occurred in Pitt County.
North Carolina traffic deaths dropped by 15 percent in 2008 (1,452), the first time NC has had less than 1,500 traffic fatalities since 1998, largely attributed to two percent less miles traveled in a down economy and more targeted traffic enforcement on crash-prone roads and highways by local and state law enforcement officers.
In 2007, the Tar Heel State was ranked 13th most dangerous state per mile driven with a fatality rate at 1.62 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, according to Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The 2008 rate was 1.43 for North Carolina, an improvement from 2007.
South Carolina was ranked third most dangerous state in the nation in the same 2007 analysis.
Safest counties were Currituck for all collisions, Hyde for traffic injuries and Avery for fatal crashes, according to the AAA ranking.
“It is gratifying to see the decrease in fatalities but dismaying to note that nearly four people die every day on North Carolina roads,” said David E. Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
The deadliest county for fatalities was Mecklenburg, where 76 individuals were killed in traffic accidents in 2008.
There were 100 more collisions involving motorcycles in 2008, compared to 2007. Graham County, located in the NC Mountains, continued to have the highest percentage of crashes and injuries from motorcycles for the second year in a row.
AAA Carolinas’ annual Dangerous County analysis, inaugurated in 1995, is one of several ways to look at North Carolina traffic crash data and done to remind motorists in the state the need for safe and defensive driving.
Dangerous counties are ranked based on the likelihood of a certain type of crash based on total vehicle miles driven.
Counties are listed in order of 2008 ranking.
Total crashes: Pitt, New Hanover, Mecklenburg, Person and Durham.
Injury crashes: New Hanover, Pitt, Graham, Mecklenburg and Cumberland.
Fatal crashes: Hertford, Tyrrell, Columbus, Robeson and Lenoir.
For all vehicles in North Carolina the total number of crashes decreased about four percent to 214,359, and injury crashes dropped about six percent to 71,776.
Accidents involving heavy trucks dropped by 15 percent and traffic deaths involving tractor-trailers dropped 13 percent. There were 111 fatalities involving tractor-trailers in 2008 compared to 128 in 2007.
The safest counties in 2008 for all motorists, with the smallest percentage of accidents per mile driven were:
Total crashes: Currituck, Swain, Polk, Camden and McDowell.
Injury crashes: Hyde, Perquimans, Tyrrell, Currituck and Polk.
Fatal crashes: Avery, Washington, Graham, Pasquotank and Carteret.
AAA Carolinas receives state traffic statistics from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and performs its own analysis to determine the most dangerous counties based on vehicle miles traveled.
An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.