Local News

Highway Deaths Up Over Holiday Weekend

Posted November 25, 2007 1:43 p.m. EST
Updated November 26, 2007 11:44 a.m. EST

— The death toll on North Carolina's roads was up this Thanksgiving holiday, even as state troopers used helicopters and other methods to catch speeders.

At least 20 people were killed in motor-vehicle accidents statewide since the Thanksgiving holiday officially began at midnight Tuesday, according to the state Highway Patrol.

That is an increase over 2006, when 11 motorists were killed on North Carolina highways during the holiday – the lowest number in three years.

On Interstate 95 near Benson, a single-vehicle accident left a grandmother and her two grandchildren dead, while three other family members were injured.

"All it takes is one small mistake and it can turn into a tragic event. It can happen so quickly,” said J.M. Dorsey of the state Highway Patrol.

In another single-vehicle accident, a Ford Explorer flipped over on Interstate 40 in Raleigh, ejecting two passengers. Five of the vehicle's six occupants were transported to hospitals. I-40 West was shut down for nearly three hours.

"It has been a typically heavy travel season for us this holiday season,” Dorsey said.

The Highway Patrol targeted I-40 in Operation Slowdown, launched on Nov. 13 to aggressively snare speeders on interstates and major four-lane highways.

"I-40 is one of the heaviest travel highways in North Carolina, especially in the Raleigh-Johnston County-Durham area," Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said. "Close to a million cars travel that particular stretch of highway daily."

AAA estimated 1.09 million North Carolinians and 533,400 South Carolinians planned to hit the highways during the Thanksgiving holiday – an increase of 2 percent over last year’s record. AAA surveys found that 43 percent planned to travel with two to three other people, and 71 percent of parents would take along their children.

The Thanksgiving holiday officially ended at midnight Sunday.

Final numbers on crashes and tickets handed out over the holiday weekend were expected from police Monday.

Monday at 6 p.m. on WRAL: I-85 and I-95 were designed more than a half-century ago to move military vehicles. Now, they're packed with civilian drivers, and there's no solution in sight for the crowding.