NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - As we approach the Fourth of July in the midst of the busy summer travel season, we're taking a look at highway fatalities on local roadways. The news is mixed.
Drunk driving-related deaths are down in New Hanover County compared to years past, but there has still been a spike in overall collisions both here and in Brunswick County.
According to the NC Highway Patrol, the number of drunk driving-related deaths have been down significantly in New Hanover County in recent years. Here's a look at the numbers dating back to 2008:
- 2008 – 6
- 2009 – 2
- 2010 – 2
- 2011 – 2
- 2012 – 4
- 2013 – 4
- 2014 – 7
- 2015 – 3
- 2016 – 2
- 2017 – 0
- 2018 – 1 (so far this year)
First Sgt. Matt King, a supervisor for the New Hanover and Brunswick County division of the Highway Patrol, says there could be a variety of reasons for the decline.
He thinks it's quite possible the increase in the use of Uber factored into the decrease in DWI fatalities here. The ride-sharing service was first offered in Wilmington in June 2014.
State troopers are still vigilant about patrolling the region for impaired drivers.
King says there was a decline in DWI arrests between 2015 and 2016, perhaps because there were simply fewer drunk drivers on the road.
But numbers have held relatively steady since then. There were 748 DWI arrests in New Hanover and Brunswick counties in 2017.
Brunswick County has not enjoyed such a significant decrease in DWI related fatalities. So far this year, there have been six fatalities related to impaired driving.
There were six DWI-related deaths in Brunswick County in all of 2017 and only two in 2016.
While you can get an Uber almost anywhere, as a practical matter, officials think that it is not as widely used in the rural parts of our viewing area. There are also more rural roadways in Brunswick County with higher speeds that contribute to an increased risk of death in the event of a collision.
The number of highway fatalities, regardless of the reason, is also alarmingly high in Brunswick County. Overall, 14 people have died on Brunswick County roadways in 2018. They had 27 highway deaths in 2017, a significant spike from 13 deaths during 2016.
"As a whole in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, our collisions have gone up by over 1,100 total collisions from 2013-2017," King said. "In 2013, the Highway Patrol in New Hanover and Brunswick counties investigated 4,376 collisions. By 2017, that number rose to 5,498 collisions."
So while there is some good news in the roadway statistics, be careful on the roads if you are traveling in town or across the country this summer.
Congested roadways, distracted driving as people use their cell phones, and opioid addiction affecting people behind the wheel, still present real threats to your safety.