AAA: Alcohol, motorcycles drive jump in N.C. traffic deaths

Posted September 8, 2008

— An increase in motorcycle and drunken driving deaths were two primary causes for a 7.8 percent jump in traffic fatalities in North Carolina last year at the same time that national numbers were dropping, the AAA said Monday.

North Carolina reported the largest increase nationally in traffic fatalities in 2007, to 1,675 from 1,554 in 2006. The number of traffic fatalities nationwide fell by 3.9 percent last year.

“This is a major public health issue for this state,” David Parsons, president and chief executive of AAA Carolinas, said in a statement.

AAA analyzed crash statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other data and reached the following conclusions:

  • Motorcycle deaths increased 37 percent, from 138 to 189, last year.
  • Fatalities involving alcohol increased 25 percent last year, from 390 to 489.
  • The state Highway Patrol has expanded its personnel 2.1 percent over the last five years, adding 38 troopers, while miles traveled increased 10.5 percent and the state’s population grew 7.6 percent.
  • The number of defendants charged with speeding offenses from 2003 to 2007 increased 21 percent, while convictions on those charges increased 6 percent. Speeding is a contributing factor in more than one-third of the state’s crashes.

North Carolina’s death rate, measured in deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, is 1.8 compared with the record-low national rate of 1.37.

“It is vehicle speed, drinking and driving, inexperienced motorcycle riders, lenient courts and too few officers on the streets and highways that are turning our state’s highways into some of the most dangerous in the nation,” Parsons said.

A loophole in North Carolina’s law allows a motorcyclist to receive an 18-month learner's permit by passing a vision and highway sign test, and the permit can be renewed indefinitely, he said. The loophole needs to be closed, he said.

“You can legally drive a motorcycle on public streets without ever taking a Division of Motor Vehicle road test or a state-approved motorcycle training (and) education course,” he said. “Motorcyclists and scooter riders should be required to demonstrate their riding ability before being allowed to drive on public roads.”

Parsons said alcohol-related crashes in the state are increasing and are increasingly more deadly.

“Increased enforcement and conviction of people driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is essential," he said, adding that law enforcement also needs to crack down on speeding.

“Our criminal justice system has to begin taking traffic offenses seriously,” he said. “Nearly half of all those charged are not convicted, many having their cases dismissed by pleading to a lesser offense to avoid insurance or license points.”

Virginia reported a 6.8 increase in traffic fatalities last year, the second-highest increase.


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  • Timbo Sep 8, 2008

    "I really wish they had more details on these statistics - "

    This AAA guy doesn't have any idea about what's coming out of his mouth. He's reading something that someone else wrote. He's completely clueless.

  • 3 Sails Sep 8, 2008

    As a former motorcycle rider, I must say I agree that as gas prices go up, so does the number of motorcycle sales. This has a direct impact on increased in motorcycle accidents. I strongly recomend ALL riders take a safe rider course, whether you have ridden before or not. My wife and I took one when we rode(she had her own bike) and it was very beneficial to both of us. These classes teach a rider a lot. I also can say that every close call I had on my bike was caused not by me, but by someone driving a 4 wheeled vehicle. Now, I personally don't like the scooters that seem to be over-populating our roads, but it is mostly because I don't like the fact that they don't have to have tags or insurance and a lot of the riders don't think the rules of the road apply to them.

  • bepack Sep 8, 2008

    wrx44 ... I'm glad you mentioned the article. After reading your first comments I just assumed you hadn't read it. My Bad. The article I read states that alcohol deaths increased from 390 to 489. While illegals may have bumped the total number, are they totally to blame for a 25% increase?.....NO.

    An increase in the number of young, less educated, less affluent Hispanic males inside our borders has CONTRIBUTED to higher deaths. But young, less educated, less affluent (WHITE, BLACK, ASIAN, etc.) males have done their part I assure you.

    Have other states seen an increase in the Hispanic population?...YES. Have they seen the same explosion of alcohol deaths?....NO. What does simple logic tell you?

  • Rolling Along Sep 8, 2008

    It isn't and enforcement problem it is a criminal justice/social problem. They are arresting the DUI's and speeders, but the judicial side is letting 50% plead to lesser or no charges. Until that stops the carnage will continue.

  • chivegas Sep 8, 2008

    "Every time there is an article that even mentions motorcycle deaths and accidents, there are those who protest, who say they ride to save money or for the freedom, their choice, it's the car drivers who cause the wrecks, ad infinitum."

    That's the sort of ethnocentricity we'd expect from someone with University of No Class avatar. Motorcycles/motorbikes are the preferred method of travel in many countries. They don't see a fraction of the accidents we see and they have a fraction of the driving laws we have.

    Not to mention, the article fails to mention (among other things), that motorcycles and scooter sales (and therefore ridership) broke all sorts of records this year due to the high price of gas

    "Speeding is a contributing factor in more than one-third of the state’s crashes."

    So then about two-thirds are a result of someone driving the speed limit or slower... Slow drivers should be ticked and thrown in jail, since they cause more accidents than drinking...

  • bob d Sep 8, 2008

    According to so many studies by MADD and government officials those who drink under 21 are a direct result in dangerous roads...that is why we raised the drinking age. If our fatalities went up, then it must surely be because of the lackluster enforcement of underage drinking laws (sarcasm). But wait didn't Mike Easley (technically, but acutally Mary)get some of the strictest underage drinking laws in the country passed here in North Carolina? YES, but our roads continue to be perilous. Maybe it is time to listen to John McCardell and
    Teach everyone to drink responsibly, and not have this connotation that once someone is 21 it is OK to drink and drive a doesn't work that way...introduce alcohol early and always preach DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE!

  • LocalYokel Sep 8, 2008

    "speed" was mentioned first in list of factors by Parsons but ignored in the headline of story? I'm convinced that NC does not care about traffic deaths or there would have been change by now. We are too fixated on scape goat problems in our society to fix the real ones -traffic deaths are real problems. They are commonly referred to as "accidents" implying that they could not be avoided...but that is often not the case - somebody is at fault.

  • Sep 8, 2008

    It's like a broken record (remember those?). I've lost so many friends and a few family members, too, in motorcycle wrecks. Every time there is an article that even mentions motorcycle deaths and accidents, there are those who protest, who say they ride to save money or for the freedom, their choice, it's the car drivers who cause the wrecks, ad infinitum.
    But every article that comes along, there are fewer and fewer who protest. They're dead. Fault doesn't seem to matter....

  • chivegas Sep 8, 2008

    Weak story. I drive a motorcycle everyday. I would argue that 90% of motorcycle operators are more skilled and better drivers than 95% of cagers. One of the test questions to get my permit/then endorsement involved knowing that the highest cause of motorcycle accidents was NOT alcohol, NOT rider inexperience, but it WAS cagers not seeing a motorcycle.

    If our state wants to do something useful to save lives, they should ban cell phone conversations (except with headset) and especially ban text messaging/emailing/surfing.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Sep 8, 2008

    I hope one day seriously, people will learn it is not wise to drive an drink alcoholic beverages. By the time they learn, they are laying somewhere mangled up or dead. Its a shame we humans who consume alchol do no listen. Not an alcoholic drinker. Proud of it, too.