RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — More people than ever died on North Carolina’s highways last year, dozens of them in the Piedmont Triad.
Preliminary data from the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program show that 1,755 people died in crashes in 2021, beating a record 1,705 set in 2007. That total represented 84 more than were killed in 2020 (about 5%) and nearly 18% more than the 5-year average provided by the NC Department of Transportation.
The number of crashes that took those lives grew to 1,626, which was 92 more (6%) than in 2020 and 18.2% more than the 5-year average.
There was no table showing 2021 data by county or municipality, but a dot density map shows the location of deadly and injury-causing crashes. Those wrecks appear dispersed widely, although of course more prevalent in and around Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
An NCDOT spokesperson did not respond immediately to an email requesting more specific data, but the release did say that city and county data sometimes lag.
There was included a breakdown of the various causes for the fatal crashes and, ultimately, the deaths, and there are data trends and ratings for the past five years.
The greatest growth in fatal crashes was among those collisions when one or more driver is 65 and older. That number grew by nearly 36% from 2020.
Compared to 5-year trends, older drivers were involved in 30% more fatal wrecks that claimed 27.4% more lives.
Fatal crashes also grew significantly in frequency when involving rear-end collisions (21.5%), distracted drivers (by 14.8%) and motorcycles (12.5%). Speeding was a factor in 2.9% more fatal wrecks in 2021 than in 2020.
But there was good news. Fewer fatal crashes involved alcohol, which declined by 11.5% from 2020, and drugs (down 8.3%). There also were fewer fatalities among bicyclists (down 20.7%), pedestrians (-1.2%) and teens (-5.4%)
Alcohol-related deaths was a positive trend, having declined by 7.4% (or 30 per year) against the 5-year average. However there were declines in fatalities for the past 5 years in only two other categories: work-zone deaths (down 20.6%) and those involving heavy trucks (-3.8%).
“Sadly, we have seen traffic fatalities moving in the wrong direction for a couple years in North Carolina and across the country,” Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program, said in a release about the data. “People are dying in record numbers on our roads, and it’s going to take an all-hands on deck approach from communities, organizations and individual drivers to reverse this trend.”
Some 209,900 of those collisions involved teenaged drivers (15-19), and 95,100 involved speed. Alcohol was related to 59,900, and 36,700 included people who weren’t wearing seat belts. Motorcycles were part of 18,100 wrecks.
There are no national data available for all of 2021, but through September the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had said fatal crashes were at the highest level since 2006.