The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released preliminary data on 2009 traffic fatalities. We are reminded that even though the preliminary numbers look good compared with 2008, North Carolina motorists have room to improve when it comes to driver safety and reducing the number of car accidents in Charlotte, Statesville and elsewhere in the state.
Even though the overall statistics show that traffic fatalities are down 10 percent nationwide and 8 percent in North Carolina, drunk driving, distracted driving and speeding still remain the leading causes of car crashes in our state and throughout the country.
The NHTSA reports there were a total of 1,314 traffic fatalities in 2009 in North Carolina, with people dying at a rate of 1.26 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Alarmingly, the percent change from 1975 to 2009 is not all that substantial when compared with other states. In 1975, North Carolina reported 1,506 traffic fatalities, which were only 192 more than reported in 2009. When business was booming between 1995 and 2005, North Carolina reported a 7 percent increase in fatalities.
Alcohol use continues to contribute to fatal crashes, despite all the work over the years by legislative committees and Mothers Against Drunk Driving to pass laws opposing drunk driving. In 2000, 30 percent of fatal crashes in North Carolina were caused by a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. In 2009, 28 percent of fatal crashes were caused by a drunk driver. It was reported that for drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2009, 61 percent died in an alcohol-related accident.
In 2009, almost 40 percent of traffic fatalities in North Carolina were caused by speeding. It was reported that 270 of the 517 speed-related fatalities were on non-interstate roadways traveling at a speed of 55 mph.
With the Fourth of July right around the corner, the Governors Highway Safety Association wants to remind drivers to maintain their speed and stay sober. In 2009, 40 percent of crashes that occurred during the Fourth of July holiday period involved a driver over the legal limit, killing 410 people nationally. Driving under the influence affects a number of skills needed to drive safely, including reaction time, visual acuity, coordination, comprehension, concentration and judgment.
Remember that buzzed driving is drunk driving, and drunk driving can destroy lives.
To learn about the Independence Day Impaired Driving Prevention Campaign, click here to view.