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A video recording of Thursday’s virtual meeting has been added to NCDOT’s YouTube channel and also can be found at ncvisionzero.org/Robeson.

LUMBERTON – Following a statewide trend, Robeson County saw an increase in roadway deaths last year.

The number of traffic deaths last year totaled 53, compared with 43 in 2019. The increase follows two straight years of declines.

The preliminary figures, which come from the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Mobility and Safety, were presented Thursday during a virtual meeting of the Robeson County Vision Zero task force.

The task force, which includes elected officials and civic leaders, has been working since 2018 to improve driving habits and save lives. The department gives Robeson County the overall worst vehicle crash rating in the state, according to various data.

“Last year was unusual, to say the least,” said Grady Hunt, a Board of Transportation member and the chairman of the task force. “We’ve known all along this is an ambitious goal, but one death is too many. We have to remain vigilant as we seek to change the driving culture in our county.”

A four-year trend line of traffic deaths in the county is steady. (See attached PDF)

Statewide, traffic fatalities preliminarily rose 11% last year, compared to the previous year. At the same time, the total number of crashes across North Carolina dropped by about 15% last year. The same trend occurred in Robeson County last year.

Brian Mayhew, NCDOT’s state traffic safety engineer, told the task force the trends, in part, were due to a steep drop in driving last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Although fewer people were on the highways, some motorists sped more and took other risks on the open roadways, resulting in more serious crashes. Those dangerous drivers also tended not to be buckled up, Mayhew said. He said more research is needed to better understand why fatalities last year increased across the state and the nation.

The task force receives technical assistance from the NCDOT and grants from the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The task force is primarily working through education outreach, such as through a social media campaign, and highway safety initiatives. One such initiative is the Seat Belt Education Classes offered for free by Southeastern Health.

Top reasons for fatal crashes

Here’s a look at the primary contributing causes of fatal crashes in Robeson County last year (a crash can have more than one cause):

  • Not wearing a seat belt: 56%
  • Alcohol-related: 23%
  • Speeding: 19%
  • Distracted driving: 4.3%

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