LUMBERTON —The Robeson County Vision Zero Task Force heard good news about traffic deaths in the county during a meeting on Thursday.
According to Grady Hunt, a state Board of Transportation member and attorney for the Public Schools of Robeson County. the number of deaths during 2019 through Oct. 31 had declined when compared for the same period in 2018, from 39 to 27.
“That’s 12 people,” he said. “That’s tremendous.”
Hunt thanked local officials, law enforcement and N.C. Department of Transportation members for their involvement in the task force.
“I think it’s a collective effort,” he said. “Everybody’s playing their part.”
And they’re not finished yet.
Kevin Lacy, an Transportation Department traffic engineer, said the agency is working on various safety improvement projects, from the addition of rumble strips to all-direction stops. The changes are determined by traffic and crash data, local input and budgeting realities.
“We have a lot of tools in our toolbox to make our roadways safer, and we are deploying them where they are needed and can make an important difference,” Lacy said.
Since the addition of a raised median along a stretch of Ramsey Street in Fayetteville, traffic crashes have decreased by 31%, he said.
“A dozen Robeson County intersections have been converted to all-way stops since 1998, with nine more locations planned,” according Andrew Barksdale, state DOT public relations officer.
According to an NCDOT study, at Rennert and Mount Olive Church roads, the number of crashes per year plummeted by almost 60% after the improvement was made in 2010.
The Transportation Department recently spent $2.2 million on placing longer-lasting, higher-visibility pavement markings on 244 miles of secondary roads in Robeson, Barksdale said.
Janet Whetstone-Perez, Sandhills Regional traffic engineer with NCDOT, spoke of safety improvements made by the department in Robeson County since 2014. Among them are a roundabout at Pine Log and Carthage Road, all-direction stop signs at Old Allenton Road and Seventh Street, the installation of stoplights at N.C. 72 and Pine Log Road, pedestrian improvements that include a sidewalk on Linkhaw Road, adding guard rails to bridges on Tar Heel Road, and the replacement of culvert wedge and guard rail on N.C. 71 and Rev. Bill Road.
In other business, Lumberton police Officer Cedrique Bridges gave a seat-belt safety presentation.
“One of the biggest issues is child restraint,” Bridges said.
In 2017, 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts in the United States, he said. From 2014 to 2018, 82 deaths in Robeson were blamed on lack of seat-belt use.
The Seat Belt Convincer machine, which simulates a crash between 5 and 10 mph, was tested after Bridges’ presentation. The machine enables riders to experience force up to five times their body weight.
Bridges said more than 200 people tried out the machine during this year’s Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair. On Friday, Task Force meeting participants took a ride on the Convincer and walked away with a better appreciation of the force generated by even a slow-speed collision.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or [email protected]