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LUMBERTON – Students in Robeson County are working to promote better driver habits – practices they hope will save lives.

The students are members of Robeson County Dream Teams, partnered with the N.C. High School Athletic Association. They attend Fairmont, Lumberton, Purnell Swett, Red Springs, South Robeson and St. Pauls high schools.

Jerome Hunt, the athletic director for the Public Schools of Robeson County, talked about the student involvement during Thursday’s meeting of the Robeson County Vision Zero Task Force in Lumberton. The task force formed last year has a simple mission: getting more people to drive safely with a goal of having zero highway deaths.

For years, the N.C. Department of Transportation has ranked the county worst in the state for overall crashes, based on a variety of data, including the severity and number of crashes per capita. Robeson County has high rates of deadly crashes involving people speeding, drinking and driving or not wearing seat belts.

The task force’s efforts already are paying off. According to preliminary data by NCDOT’s Mobility and Safety Division, 48 people died in roadway crashes in Robeson County in 2018. That figure is down from 53 in 2017.

The task force is a grassroots-led group of community stakeholders led by Grady Hunt, a Robeson County native and a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation.

“We’re pleased to see our numbers are trending in the right direction,” Hunt said. “Students throughout Robeson County are excited to participate on a Dream Team as part of the Vision Zero initiative.”

In other business Thursday, the task force received an update on a pilot project announced earlier this year to identify new safety measures for reducing deaths along two rural highways. They are a 12-mile section of N.C. 711 in the Pembroke area and a 15-mile section of Great Marsh Church Road near the Bladen-Robeson county line. On those two roadways, a combined 11 people have died in crashes over a recent five-year period.

Vision Zero Task Force members will have the chance to inspect both routes in person and work in partnership with NCDOT on suggested improvements for them.

Additionally, several local agencies including law enforcement are applying this year for grants from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program that, if awarded, would seek to boost highway safety, crack down on drunk driving and boost police operations. The task force heard updates on such applications from Southeastern Health, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office and the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday. The grant winners will be announced this summer.

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