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Despite pandemic, North Carolina traffic deaths hit 1,500


Associated Press

Traffic deaths in North Carolina last year surpassed 1,500 for the first time in 13 years despite a pandemic during which motorists logged fewer miles statewide, statistics show. 

N.C. Department of Transportation data shows the number of miles driven dropped 19% last year, but the number of fatal crashes rose 8% over the previous year, The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday. 

According to NCDOT, 1,506 people died in 1,491 fatal crashes in North Carolina in 2020. People drove about 99 billion miles in the state last year, compared with about 123 billion miles the previous year, the department said.

Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program, says with COVID-19, people are concentrating on their health and their financial futures and not focusing on driving. 

"People are not doing things they normally do behind the wheel," Ezzell said. "They may simply be forgetting to do that because their minds are elsewhere."

Speeding played a role in about a quarter of the fatal crashes, according to the DOT data. Many speeders have exploited the more open highways during the pandemic, experts and law enforcement officers say.

"Congestion is an annoying thing, but one positive thing about it is it slows people down," Ezzell said.