WPD responds to more than 50 wrecks caused by distracted drivers in the last 60 days

Published: Apr. 11, 2019 at 6:12 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Wilmington Police Department posted on social media it has responded to 51 wrecks in a five-block radius near South College Road in the last 60 days, and the police say it’s because of distracted driving.

Distracted driving could mean drivers looking at their phones, eating or even changing clothes while behind the wheel.

Cpl. Adam Schwartzel responded to several of those accidents, and said he’s found there is no specific age range of people who usually get in wrecks, but they are typically 18-40 years old.

Schwartzel said they all have one mentality.

“It’s the it won’t happen to me theory," Schwartzel said. "It’s like, ‘It happens to other people, not me. I haven’t been in a wreck yet. I’m a good driver. I can text and drive and be fine, right? I can speed a little and be fine’ but eventually, it’s going to catch up.”

Several of the accidents on South College Road involve pedestrians and bicycles. At night, most wrecks are caused by a combination of speeding while being distracted.

“Because there are students there, because there are people going from one business side to the other side of College Road to go to other businesses, we do have a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists that are hit there," Schwartzel said. "Those are always the most violent and worst.

"Later at night, we get the higher speed wrecks. During the rush hours, everybody’s kind of bumper to bumper.”

The most common wrecks are cars hitting rear ends at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. The worst area for wrecks on College is the stretch between Oriole Drive to Randall Drive.

Schwartzel said Wilmington averages 12 to 18 traffic fatalities a year, and most happen at night.

He said WPD will have more of a presence along South College Road and is issuing warnings and citations. While distracted driving is not illegal, drivers can be cited for failure to maintain lane control, including drifting into the other lane while texting or eating.

“Myself and the rest of the traffic unit, the patrol officers, even UNCW, we’re going to get out there and really saturate that area, have a lot of officers out there, make a lot of stops, be very visible, to remind people to pay attention,” Schwartzel said.

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