2021 was the deadliest year on North Carolina's highways in more than two decades. Officials believe pandemic anxiety was a contributing factor.

Over 1,700 people were killed on North Carolina roads last year, a number that exceeds the previous record set in 2007.

Mark Ezell is director of the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program. He worries that the state's data mirrors disturbing national trends.

Ezell says that in addition to the usual driving distractions, there has more recently been an element of emotional distraction because of the pandemic.

"People were concerned about their health, their future, their families, and that anxiousness can really take away from the attention that one gives to driving," says Ezell. 

Ezell says speeding is also an issue that needs to be addressed. While data shows North Carolina faring a little better than the national average, he considers the numbers to still be unacceptably high. He believes enforcement is only a partial solution.

Ezell says, "We've worked very closely with law enforcement across the state but particularly in the Triad area, but we can't enforce our way into traffic safety, we've also got to educate folks about the importance of safe driving."

Ezell also cites a need for safer roads and safer car design, which he says are state and national issues that require innovative solutions.

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