The N.C. Department of Transportation compiles data on traffic fatalities statewide. The DOT uses reports from law enforcement officers for its analysis.
The DOT provided the StarNews with a list of all traffic fatalities in New Hanover County by road for a 10-year period. According to that list, there were 218 fatal crashes in New Hanover County between Jan. 1, 2002, and the most recent data in 2012.
According to that list, U.S. 421 had the greatest number of crashes with 26 crashes.
But an officer could have written “U.S. 421” for the roadway location on a report that referred to any section of the road in New Hanover County. Because of that, the crash could have been in a variety of locations, from the divided portion of the highway to the north of the city to anywhere on Carolina Beach Road all the way to Fort Fisher.
Carolina Beach Road also appears nine times on the list on its own.
Cliff Braam, a DOT traffic safety engineer in Raleigh, cautioned against assuming that the roadway with the greatest number of crashes was automatically the most dangerous.
“This list should not be considered or utilized as an indicator of ‘most dangerous’ as it is simply a listing of frequency of fatalities on the indicated roadway and does not take into account the many other variables and nuances associated in analyzing safety related data,” Braam wrote in an email. “As a simplistic example, the attached listing does not indicate the segment length of each roadway, so there may be a road that had 10 fatalities that was 10 miles in length and given the attached list, you would be comparing this to a road with 5 fatalities that was 2 miles in length. Which one is “more dangerous” and how would you know this based upon the attached data?”
Braam said the DOT does not base their safety programs or roadway analysis on number counts alone.
“Instead we typically look at more widespread systematic approaches which take into account the many variables associated with working with highway safety data and focus on identifying treatable patterns of crashes,” Braam said. “Once again, the attached list should not be utilized as an indication of hazardous locations or danger as both of these terms are extremely subjective and mean different things to different people based upon a variety of factors.”
Date posted: July 24, 2012
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