The North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program made significant strides with several projects and initiatives launched in 2016 to reduce traffic-related crashes and fatalities on our roadways.
“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish this year in traffic safety,” GHSP Director Don Nail said. “Because of Governor Pat McCrory’s NC Vision Zero initiative, we are now able to bring together multiple agencies and stakeholders to engineer safer roads, educate road users on safe driving practices, and enforce life-saving traffic laws.”
The NC Vision Zero initiative utilizes data analytics to guide traffic safety efforts and educate the public. Safety stakeholders, such as state and local law enforcement, are able to use the data to directly link agency enforcement and countermeasure activities. The initial goal is to reduce roadway fatalities and serious injuries in half in the next 15 years, with a long-term target of zero deaths on North Carolina roadways.
In addition to the launch of NC Vision Zero, GHSP funded a total of 109 projects for state, local and nonprofit agencies. These projects focused on several areas that affect highway safety including, but not limited to, alcohol-impaired driving, occupant protection, speeding, young drivers, motorcycle safety, older drivers, school bus safety, pedestrians, bicyclists, and traffic records.
Following are key highlights of GHSP’s program areas:
GHSP reported a record 91.7 percent seatbelt usage rate according to its annual survey conducted by RTI International. This means that more than nine of out 10 North Carolinians are taking the time to buckle up when getting in a motor vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s standard is 90 percent.
North Carolina’s Click It or Ticket campaign is still the national model for education and enforcement programs that remind motorists that wearing a seat belt can save your life. The program, which started 23 years ago, aims to increase driver seatbelt usage rates and reduce fatalities across North Carolina. It has yielded significant results over the years.
Fatalities resulting from of an impaired driver are down 19.6 percent, compared to 2015, with 329 deaths in North Carolina so far this year. In its 22nd year, the Booze It & Lose It education and enforcement campaign has created increased awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, as well as the penalties associated with driving while impaired.
GHSP has awarded grants to DWI Task Force teams that work nightly to catch impaired drivers. The DWI Task Force teams are in Brunswick, Buncombe, Cumberland, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Robeson, Union, Wake and Wayne counties.
GHSP added two new units to the B.A.T. Mobile program, which is a Breath Alcohol Testing vehicle equipped with a mobile lab and a magistrate’s courtroom. B.A.T. mobile units are used at checkpoints throughout the state to identify and remove impaired drivers from roadways. GHSP expanded the fleet so that the program can be regionally based and more efficient. The program is administrated through the Forensic Tests for Alcohol Branch of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
To help with efficient prosecution of impaired driving cases, GHSP funded three Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors to conduct training for prosecutors, law enforcement, magistrates, judges and other traffic safety professionals.
GHSP sponsors the BikeSafe NC initiative to reduce motorcycle crashes and fatalities. This program offers training to experienced riders who are interested in improving their riding skills and riding techniques. The training is conducted by law enforcement motor officers in a non-threatening, non-enforcement environment. There is no charge for these classes. BikeSafe NC held 145 classes this year in 21 counties training over 490 riders.
Education and Enforcement Campaigns
GHSP sponsored 17 educational and enforcement campaigns in which 80 percent of law enforcement agencies statewide participated. More than 100 agencies in North Carolina participated in all the campaigns, which include Click It or Ticket, Booze It & Lose It and Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine programs.
More than 24,000 saturation patrols were completed, resulting in over 7,000 DWI arrests, 24,000 occupant restraint tickets, 88,000 speeding violations and 5,000 felony arrests.
Looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, GHSP will continue to serve as a leader for improving traffic safety in North Carolina through its own education campaigns and initiatives while funding evidence-based, innovative, and results-oriented programs.
The achievements to date have been the result of a wide range of education, enforcement, and other safety initiatives in our state, and can be credited to the hard work and dedication of many agencies and individuals including law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, educators, researchers, community groups and safety advocates.
“We are confident that our efforts during 2016 and the launch of NC Vision Zero will help accomplish our goal of reducing crashes and saving lives on our streets and highways,” Nail concluded.
In March 2017, North Carolina will host the Lifesavers Conference in Charlotte.
The conference is the largest meeting of highway safety professionals in the country. More than 2,000 participants will gather for three days to discuss best practices, new initiatives and countermeasures aimed at reducing roadway incidents.