AAA Carolinas has come out with its annual list of the most dangerous North Carolina counties for driving.
There's a general category for collisions, a category for motorcycles, and tractor-trailers. Triple-A Carolinas Communications Director Angela Vogel Daily says the most dangerous counties for collisions in 2012 were Pitt, New Hanover, Person, Watauga and Union. "And I will say that the top 4, Pitt, New Hanover, Person, and Watauga have been on our list, in the top 4, for three years."
What is it about these counties that makes them more dangerous than other jurisdictions? "It's hard to say. In each county there are different factors involved," Daily says, "Certainly, the local law enforcement will know which corridors are the most dangerous, which intersections are the most dangerous. In New Hanover for instance, you have a town with a lot of tourists, people who are unfamiliar with the area; both Pitt and New Hanover are college towns, same with Watauga, and that can definitely play a factor. Certainly the mountains are a factor in Watauga. And we do see motorcycle accidents, specifically in the mountain counties, are very dangerous."
The most dangerous county in North Carolina for motorcycles is Graham County, which has topped the list for collisions, injuries and fatal crashes for the past three years. Graham County is sparsely populated, and is home to the "Tail of the Dragon," a scenic mountain road popular with motorcyclists, which includes 11 miles with 318 curves. The other counties most dangerous for motorcyclists are Alexander, Alleghany, Gates and Greene, for fatalities.
The five counties that offer the best opportunities to participate in a fatal tractor-trailer accident are Tyrrell, Warren, Northampton, Polk and Montgomery, all new to the list this year except Northampton. For tractor-trailer collisions Anson, Hertford, Washington, Bladen and Duplin top the list. And for a tractor-trailer crash with injuries? Hertford, Washington, Sampson, Bladenn and Anson counties are the best -- or worst -- bet.
The safest counties, according to AAA Carolinas are Swain, Haywood, Currituck, Camden and Polk for total crashes, Currituck, Tyrrell, Polk, Swain and Haywood for collisions with injuries, and Perquimans, Hyde, Haywood, Moore and Cabarrus for fatalities.
The deadliest county, with the highest number of fatal crashes is Mecklenburg, with 69, Wake with 61, Cumberland 50, Robeson with 47 and Guilford with 39. Mecklenburg, Wake, Cumberland and Guilford are home to some densely populated metro areas.
The total number of traffic fatalities, according to AAA Carolinas, went up 4% in 2012, from 1217 in 2011. Until 2012, the number had been dropping over the past several years.
David E. Parson, the CEO of AAA Carolinas, said in a statement released to coincide with the 2012 figures, "Consistently high rankings for being one of the most dangerous counties in the state should be a wake-up call for better traffic enforcement or road design."
AAA Carolinas gets its traffic statistics from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and performs its own analysis to determine the most hazardous counties based on miles traveled.