Despite the pandemic, with a decrease in vehicular traffic, new data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation shows that traffic deaths across the state increased by 20 percent above the previous year. More than 1,600 people died on North Carolina roadways in 2020 — the highest number of deaths since 2007, despite the steep decline in driving from about the time the pandemic took hold in the state.

Empty roadways may be one reason why: Early evidence suggests that some motorists took advantage of fewer drivers on the road to speed and take other risks, including not wearing seat belts.

In many cases, these are accidents and deaths that did not need to happen, and this is what the NC Vision Zero initiative takes aim at. This statewide program works to eliminate roadway deaths and injuries by using data-driven prevention strategies. The education, enforcement and emergency response tools are impressive and are available to each of us at ncvisionzero.org, but at the end of the road, the only way this initiative and other strategies are going to work is through collaboration. We each need to do our part.

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