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Report: Traffic deaths down in N.C. but up in Wake

Posted February 5, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— America's roads appear to be getting safer, but Wake County's roads are among those in the state that were deadlier last year than in the past.

Preliminary safety numbers nationwide show a sharp drop in traffic deaths in 2008, with 42 states showing fewer road fatalities, according to numbers obtained by USA Today.

Wake traffic fatalities among highest in state Wake traffic fatalities among highest in state

The newspaper reports that with high gas costs and the tightening economy, people drove less to save money. Fewer trips led to fewer fatalities in many states.

North Carolina is one of those.

According to unofficial statistics from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, fatalities in 2008 were down 320 in 2008 from 2007.

And any progress is welcome.

Official numbers from 2007 show North Carolina had the fourth-highest number of traffic deaths behind California, Texas and Florida.

While other North Carolina counties posted fewer fatal crashes in 2008, Wake County numbers grew – to 75, according to preliminary numbers. Official numbers are released in March.

Elsewhere across North Carolina, numbers are lower, according to the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, including Durham County, which saw at least 23 fatalities, and Orange with 17.

Johnston County saw fewer crashes, as did Edgecombe, Mecklenburg and Wayne counties.

Part of the reason for North Carolina's overall poor performance among the 50 states, UNC traffic researcher Eric Rodgman says, is rural roads, which often don't have shoulders.

"There is so much rural road, where the speeds are higher, we might see more fatalities for our population than many other states," he said.

High travel areas are also a factor.

The Web site,SafeRoadMaps, shows the sheer numbers in one year. By typing in an address, users can see how many fatal crashes are near any location. Road pictures and crash causes are available with a simple click.

The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety, a traffic research group with ties to the University of Minnesota, put it together with the latest nationwide information from 2006.

Rodgman says the data are key to understanding traffic safety, and he is thrilled the public has a way to get involved.

"In some cases, they can be an additional voice to help traffic safety experts about issues across the state," he said.

11 Comments

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  • Blues Man Z Feb 6, 12:28 p.m.

    Not sure what "highway miles" has to do with traffic volume. Less highway miles in more densely populated area would lead to increased traffic volume. There is a fair amount of traffic in NC, but in no way compares to the Northeast or Calif.
    Drivers need to stay sober, stay off the cell phones, learn the rules of the road, and learn how to use turn signals (among other things)

  • aintbackingdwn Feb 6, 10:09 a.m.

    I think with Obama and dems in control now's the time to seek a ban on SUV's, large gas guzzling vehicles that are the menace to our highways. Better yet why not ban all motor vehicles and por the money into mass transit. I mean since handguns kill so many people why not apply the same sick logic to our highways which take many more lives than those with firearms.

  • grimreaper Feb 6, 9:40 a.m.

    The majority of these fatalities were caused by illegal immigrants. Businesses in Wake cater to them for cheap illegal labor and thus create a safe haven for them.

    Don't believe it? Go check the actual stats.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Feb 6, 9:13 a.m.

    You have to wonder if the price of gas, and the fact that people are driving less, MAY have an impact on these numbers???

  • roadkng48 Feb 6, 8:40 a.m.

    One thing that the article failed to mention, was that North Carolina has the second highest number of highway miles just behind Texas. We have a very high volume of traffic on our interstates with the commercial traffic from our ports and passing thru the state, plus we are a major tourist/vacation state.

  • TeamHatteras Feb 6, 8:30 a.m.

    "Official numbers from 2007 show North Carolina had the fourth-highest number of traffic deaths behind California, Texas and Florida."

    I wonder how this might compare with the illegal immigrant population by state. Just sayin'....

  • chargernut69 Feb 5, 9:34 p.m.

    Poorly designed intersections & traffic flow has alot to do with it too... this is not Mayberry!

  • AtALost Feb 5, 9:14 p.m.

    OSX, I don't think you've been out there after 4pm. I understand your frustration with sober drivers applying makeup, reading the paper, etc. in the morning, but driving the wrong way going 65mph has almost certain death consequences. In all my life, I've only heard of a few very elderly drivers driving for miles going the wrong way. It's happened a few times in the past 24 months in Wake county and the drivers were beyond drunk. Texting, dialing, yelling at the kids, etc. while driving are also major problems. Some people can talk and drive but clearly others cannot. I wish the Police would ticket drivers who swerve out of their lanes even when they're not under the influence of anything except stupidity. Maybe if more people sued the estates of bad or careless drivers, people would pay more attention while on the road.

  • OSX Feb 5, 7:13 p.m.

    nufsaid....obviously you haven't driven on 440 and I-40 in the AM. I think sober people take more risks and it is a challenge just to stay out of their way. Don't believe me? Get out there and find out for yourself.

  • rushbot Feb 5, 6:54 p.m.

    Excellant phrasing Mr./Ms nufsaid. I was trying to figure out how to finesse that opinion!

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