Holiday Travel Alert: Be Cautious on NC Rural Roads

As we gear up for Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday travel season, our Durham car accident lawyers want to take a time-out to urge you and your loved ones to make safety a top priority.

Car on a road in a misty forest with its headlights on.Although we often hear about the awful wrecks that occur on our highways, a study by AAA Carolinas indicates that more traffic deaths in North Carolina occur on rural roads. Although rural roads accounted for a low amount of the vehicle miles traveled, they accounted for an outsized portion of the state’s traffic fatalities.

And a recent report by NPR indicated that of the nation’s approximately 37,250 annual traffic fatalities, nearly 60 percent occur on rural roads. In some states, more than 90 percent of car accident related deaths occur on rural roads. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers on rural roads die at a rate of 2.5 times higher per mile they travel than those on urban highways. In other words, those who travel in urban areas drive twice as many miles but suffer about half the number of fatal accidents.

Why is this?

For one thing, rural roads tend to be narrower. They may have lower shoulders, more curves, faded or non-existent road markers and street lights and far fewer police officers patrolling. This means people may be more likely to speed or take these routes if they are intoxicated – putting you and your family at risk.

The most dangerous rural road in the country has been identified as a stretch of lone highway in Utah. In the last 10 years, there have reportedly been more than 520 fatal accidents on that road. Of those, NPR reported:

  • 117 were at night;
  • 280 were during the day;
  • 260 were in clear weather conditions;
  • 84 were in poor weather conditions;
  • 9 involved crashes with animals;
  • 32 cases involved a DUI;
  • 46 involved driver fatigue;
  • 145 involved speeding;
  • 288 involved driving off the road.

In North Carolina, 1,658 people were killed in crashes in 2020. This was nearly a 13% increase from 2019. For Thanksgiving 2020, there were more than 2,700 crashes, resulting in more than 1100 injuries. That’s just one five-day period. And while the overall number of crashes was down from 2019, fatalities were up.

As you might expect, alcohol factored into some of these crashes. For Thanksgiving 2020, 17% of fatalities were alcohol-related. Fortunately, over the past five Thanksgivings, 17% is the lowest reported number of alcohol-related deaths. 35% of fatalities from crashes were alcohol-related in 2018.

Christmas 2020 saw a whopping 2,828 crashes across the state. Nearly 1,200 people were injured in these traffic accidents. The worst year over the past five for Christmas injuries was 2018, with 1,408. Christmas 2018 also saw the most crashes, with Christmas 2020 coming in second.

New Years driving, covering a short period from December 31, 2019 through January 1, 2020, resulted in 702 crashes across North Carolina. Nearly half of those had associated injuries and fatalities. New Years 2020 was the worst one for crashes since 2016. As with the other holidays, unbelted drivers and passengers made up most of the crash fatalities (86%).

So wherever your travel takes you this year, please use extreme caution. First and foremost, wear a seatbelt. 65% of traffic fatalities on Thanksgiving 2020 involved unbelted drivers and passengers.

If you’ve been injured, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential consultation. Call 1-866-900-7078.