LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – The North Carolina Department of Transportation held a virtual community forum on Thursday to discuss curbing traffic deaths in Robeson County.
Grady Hunt, chairman of the Robeson County Vision Zero task force, and Kevin Lacy, the state’s traffic engineer, gave short presentations at the start of the meeting. Hunt serves on the N.C. Board of Transportation.
The county has recorded 16 traffic deaths this year through April, compared with 10 for the same period last year, according to an analysis by the NCDOT’s Mobility and Safety Division.
The division found the increase is, in part, due to more people speeding excessively on less-crowded roads during the pandemic, as well as an increase in crashes involving distracted driving and lane departures, which occurs for example when a vehicle crosses the center line.
“Now more than ever we have to remain vigilant by doing everything we can to reduce highway deaths,” Hunt said. “We have made great strides, and we don’t want to lose any momentum.”
Formed in early 2018, the task force is a countywide coalition of elected and public figures who want to reduce traffic deaths. The group’s past two meetings this spring have been canceled because of the pandemic.
The number of traffic fatalities in Robeson County has declined for two straight years – from 53 in 2017 to 43 last year. The N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program, an arm of the NCDOT, has awarded several grants to law enforcement agencies in Robeson County. One of the grants sponsored a bus banner campaign promoting seat-belt usage.
“We know as the Governor continues to lift restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, more people will be hitting the road this summer,” Hunt said. “People have been cooped up at home for a while. So, it remains vital that our mission of driver safety continue to be front and center.”