R-C counties rank high

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Three Roanoke-Chowan area counties are ranked among the top in the state….for the wrong reasons.

According to an analysis conducted by AAA Carolinas, the most dangerous counties in 2006 where motorists had the greatest chance of being in an accident, have a property-damage only crash,

or being injured or killed (based on per mile traveled) included Gates, Hertford and Bertie.

Gates ranked first in the state for motor vehicle accidents involving property damage only. It marked the first time Gates County was ranked in the top-five.

and the number of times the county was listed among the top five in the category in the last five years:

As far as fatal accidents were concerned, Hertford County and Bertie County respectively ranked #2 and #3 statewide. For both it marked their second straight year in the top-five.

1st Sgt. K.P. Pitts of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s Troop A, District II office in Ahoskie reported a total of 23 fatalities within the district, which covers Bertie and Hertford along with Gates. There were also 23 motor vehicle fatalities in the district during 2007.

“I was hoping that number would be reduced and the troopers were working very hard to make it happen,” 1st Sgt. Pitts said. “In early 2007, I set a district goal to reduce fatalities by 10 percent.

We at the Ahoskie Office regret we did not make that goal, but are relieved that we did not exceed 2006 totals.

I fear to think how many lives might have been lost if the troopers were not fulfilling their duties to reduce all collisions.”

For the fifth consecutive year, New Hanover was the county in which North Carolina motorists were most likely to be in a crash, per mile driven in 2006, according to the AAA Carolinas analysis.

The county where once a crash occurred, a motorist was most likely to be injured or killed, per mile driven, was western North Carolina’s Graham County, where motorcyclists were most likely to be in a property-damage only or injury crash.

Alleghany County, on the Virginia border, was where a motorcyclist in a crash was most likely to be killed, according to AAA.

Haywood County, a rural county west of Asheville with winding, narrow mountain roads and Interstate I-40 leading into Tennessee, leads the 2006 list of most dangerous counties for tractor-trailer crashes for the third year in a row.

One out of every 10 traffic accidents in Haywood County (115 out of 1047) in

2006 involved a tractor-trailer.

Statewide tractor-trailer crashes jumped 27 percent to 10,995, but the good news was fatalities in such crashes dropped from 120 during 2005 to 91 in 2006. Surry County was the most likely county for a tractor-trailer crash to result in a traffic death.

Both New Hanover and Graham have consistently ranked among the most dangerous counties for crashes and injuries in North Carolina over the past five years, according to AAA, which has been ranking the counties for the past 10 years based on the state’s Crash Facts.

“Consistently high rankings for being the most dangerous county in the state, in any category, should be a wake-up call for better traffic enforcement or road design,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “Because the statistics are based on per mile driven, the county-by-county comparisons points out the need for improvements.”

Statewide, traffic crashes overall increased three percent in 2006, injury crashes declined three percent and the number of motorcycle crashes remained relatively stable.

“It’s no surprise New Hanover is at the top of the list,” said Lieutenant Everett Clendenin of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. “It is a popular vacation destination and has a growing college population resulting in increased traffic congestion.”

Graham County, in the western part of the state on the Tennessee border, remains a dangerous county in which to ride a motorcycle or drive a vehicle due to a popular mountain road referred to as “the tail of the dragon,” said Clendenin. The scenic mountain road on U.S. 129 at Deals Gap includes 11 miles of 318 curves.

Motorcycle crash fatalities in 2006 in North Carolina, per vehicle mile driven, were up two percent, and injury accidents, per vehicle mile, were up 19 percent, following a national trend.

“As more people purchase and ride motorcycles for the first time - especially pre-boomers and boomers - their lack of experience tends to result in more cyclists losing control of their ride,” said Parsons. “More safety education and riding experience should be required for beginning cyclists.”

An affiliate of the American Automobile Association, AAA Carolinas was founded in 1922 as a not-for-profit organization that now serves nearly 1.6 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of travelers.