Other counties had worse records, but state troopers say that local figure is still too high, so they have increased patrols on county highways this week in an effort to reduce alcohol-related collisions.
Troopers will focus on Interstate 95 and U.S. 74 during what officials have called Operation Summer Heat, according to Sgt. Freddy Johnson of the state Highway Patrol in Lumberton. It is part of statewide effort that began Monday and ends Sunday.
“Typically, a lot of our fatalities do go up in the summer months,” Johnson said. “There are a lot people traveling through this area on summer vacation.”
Johnson said troopers also will be patrolling the county's rural highways, with a focus on N.C. 211.
“N.C. 211 is a major route between Lumberton and Red Springs and Raeford. Our statistics show us that there are a lot DWI arrests along that road,” Johnson said.
The decision to mount the campaign came after the Highway Patrol reviewed traffic accidents investigated by troopers in each county from June to September 2005. Robeson County ranked seventh in the state for the number of alcohol-related crashes.
Buncombe County had the highest numbers of alcohol-related collisions at 71 and Johnston County followed with 67 and three fatal crashes.
During the four-month period in 2005, 47 people die in alcohol-related deaths in North Carolina and there were 2,028 collisions in which drinking was a factor, according to the patrol.
Johnson attributed Robeson's rank to the heavy traffic flow through county's highways over the summer months. He said an average of 130,000 cars travel the 39-mile stretch of I-95 every day.
“It's a constant flow of traffic out there, with people going to Myrtle Beach and Wilmington,” Johnson said. “Those areas are building up massively and people travel through here to get there. We encourage people to have designated drivers. We want voluntary compliance with the laws, but we're going to be out there for the ones that don't do it. Don't drink and drive.”
Motorists can report crashes, drunken motorists, or stranded motorists to the Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47) on their cell phones.