ENC Features
10:10 am
Tue September 2, 2014

Pitt Tops List As Most Dangerous County For Wrecks

Pitt County is ranked number one as the most dangerous county in the state for vehicle accidents.  We pinpoint some reasons Greenville drivers are most at risk.  

It’s one of the biggest counties in eastern North Carolina… With more than 170,000 people living in Pitt County, it’s no wonder accidents are a daily concern, especially in Greenville.  But according to a AAA Carolinas report released earlier this month, Pitt County tops the list as the most dangerous county in the state for being involved in a vehicle collision, a title it’s held for the past six years. This would be anything from fender benders to major crashes. Additionally, Pitt ranks second for the best chance of being in an injurious crash.  So why does Pitt County rank so high for collisions?  This week, I asked AAA Carolina’s Traffic Safety Manager Steve Phillips why.

“It has to do with infrastructure and the amount of people that travel through your area.  As you know, Pitt County has ECU so you have a lot of people from different areas coming to that area basically as a transplant or as someone who is just temporarily there.  And what they’re not doing is understanding the infrastructure of the road.  And they’re probably coming from bigger cities or they’re coming from even more rural areas, all converging in one area, making for a deadly combination.”

Unfamiliarity with the roads may be one reason, but Phillips says speeding is the major cause of traffic accidents in Pitt County.

“what we typically see, especially with the age group that’s probably there with the two colleges there, speeding is usually the number one problem along with not wearing a seat belt and also alcohol.”

Many of the injurious wrecks in Pitt County are also a result of speeding. 

“What we found is where you have a lot of rural driving, where you have roads with no shoulders or low shoulders, you have not a lot of room for mistakes, speeding becomes even more of a factor.”

A whopping 4,500 wrecks occurred in Pitt County last year, but most of them inside city limits. Highway Patrol Trooper Doug Coley.

“You have a lot of traffic in this area, East Carolina University brings in a lot of students, Pitt Community College, we’ve got five big high schools.  So we have a lot of young drivers.  They have a lot of wrecks within the city limits.”

Vehicle Miles Traveled is an estimate of the amount of vehicle travel in a geographical area.  According to the AAA Carolinas report, Pitt County averages 318 crashes per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.  That’s compared to New Hanover County, ranked second, with 293 crashes per 100 vehicle miles traveled.  Both counties have universities with young, inexperienced drivers that contribute to the high rate of vehicle collisions. But Pitt County’s collision rate is much higher than New Hanover County, which has 40,000 more people.

East Carolina University started their Fall semester this Tuesday, so there’s a new influx of motorists in Greenville.

“You can tell a big difference when the students are here, as compared to when they’re not as far as the amount of traffic that we’re having.”

In an effort minimize vehicle traffic around campus, Public Information Officer for ECU Police Department Lt. Chris Sutton says the university has become more pedestrian friendly, with more students riding bikes, skateboards, or walking.

“That has reduced some of the issues that we’ve seen.  Now, there’s still traffic on the roadways adjacent to our campus and our officers run traffic surveys, as well as use radar to help with speed suppression and enforcement activity. We also during the semester set up traffic checkpoints to help with either education or enforcement.”

Lt. Sutton says they also provide traffic safety tips to students through their dorm program or on social media.  ECU Police have a radar speed trailer that can be placed in areas where motorists routinely exceed the speed limit.  While speeding is the number one reason for vehicle collisions in the county, backing into another vehicle or a fixed object is the main reason of reported collisions on campus.  Since January, a total of 81 accidents have been reported, of those, 50 were in parking lots.  Lt. Sutton attributes the low rate of major accidents on campus to an increase in foot traffic.  But even that presents some safety concerns.

“sometimes they stay inside the cross walks and sometimes they don’t.  So you can’t take for granted that just because there’s not an area where there’s a cross walk that someone’s not going to walk across the street to come on to campus or leave campus so it’s important that you’re patient, you take your time, you drive defensively and that you’re very aware of your surroundings.”

While Greenville certainly has greater numbers of inexperienced drivers, accidents can happen to anyone.  State Trooper Doug Coley says distracted drivers - young or old – present a danger to themselves and to other motorists. 

“The normal reaction time is ¾ of a second. If someone is looking away from the roadway, it’s going to increase you chance of having a collision.  Anything that takes your eyes off the roadway, it’s important for you to be aware of what’s going on, stay off the phone, remember not to text and drive.”

While Pitt County is ranked number one for the most dangerous county for wrecks, Tyrrell County came in at number two as the county with the best chance of being in an injurious crash.  Pamlico County ranked number two as the most dangerous county for motorcycles being involved in a fatal crash.  

To see the AAA Carolinas report, click http://carolinas.aaa.com/media/Pages/TRAFFIC-FATALITIES-DECLINE-BUT-AVERAGED-THREE-DEATHS-A-DAY-LAST-YEAR-IN-NORTH-CAROLINA.aspx