Crash rates continue to plague city streets
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, July 22, 2018
A task force driven by state numbers that once again rank Greenville among the top cities for vehicular crashes is working to more effectively deploy police and develop other strategies to make city streets safer, officials said.
The N.C. Department of Transportation’s report on crashes in cities with populations over 10,000 listed Greenville as the worst city for the second year in a row. It showed that 14,694 crashes occurred in the city limits between between 2015-2017, with 3,634 of them resulting in injuries. Twenty-nine crashes resulted in fatalities over the three year period.
The ranking considers 13 subcategories including total crashes, total non-fatal injuries, total fatalities, annual crashes per 1,000 people, property damage totals and average crash cost. Greenville ranked first in the non-fatal injury crash rate; sixth in overall crash rate, seventh in fatal crashes, and ninth in crash cost.
“We know here at the Greenville Police Department we can’t just go out and do traffic enforcement and expect this problem to go away,” said Lt. Mike Montanye, strategic services commander for the department. “It does take a group effort, it’s so we can all understand what everyone can bring to the table.”
Chief Mark Holtzman tapped Montanye to assemble the task force after numbers showed ongoing efforts have not reversed the city’s consistently high rate of wrecks — Greenville and Pitt County have ranked high in dangerous road listings compiled by the state and AAA Motor Club on and off for more than two decades.
The task force includes members from the police department, NCDOT, Greenville Public Works, East Carolina University, Vidant Health and other agencies. Montanye said the group has met twice since forming in June.
Its overall goal is to reduce the number of crashes and the number of injuries resulting from crashes. He said having partners will help expedite safety initiatives and ensure accountability among the agencies involved.
From a policing standpoint, Montanye the department already is increasing patrols in known problem areas and is focusing enforcement on violations that increase the risk of injury in the event of a crash.
In 2017, the most dangerous intersections in the city were Greenville Boulevard and Evans Street, Charles Boulevard and Fire Tower Road and Arlington Boulevard and Fire Tower Road.
In an effort to reduce red light violations that result in crashes, the department installed red light cameras at five problem intersections in November. Since installation, the cameras have generated 11,351 tickets — not including those issues since May 31, at a rate of almost 5 violations per camera everyday.
According to data provided by the department, violations most commonly cited in crashes are failure to reduce speed, failure to yield right of way and inattention. Left turn wrecks and rear-end crashes are most common along wrecks involving parked cars.
Montanye said enforcing seat belt, stop sign and speeding rules are high on the priority list has the task force has developed. He said department officials also decided to hold an additional traffic checkpoint per quarter with cooperation with the ECU Police department and other agencies.
According to the NCDOT crash data, 2.24 percent of crashes between 2015-2017, about 330 incidents, were related to drunken driving.
Ellen Walston, Safe Kids Coordinator at Vidant Medical Center and chairwoman of the Traffic Safety Action Team for Safe Communities in Pitt County, also serves on the task force. She said reducing injuries through preventable violations is an overarching priority.
She said seat belt and child safety restraint education alone could save lives, as well as public information on a variety of other safe practices like distracted or fatigued driving.
“We don’t want to have patients with injuries that could have been prevented. Our whole mission is to keep those families out of the hospital and not have to suffer tragedies and injuries that are preventable,” she said. “That’s why our partnerships are so critical, we are so blessed to have strong partnerships in our community.”
Besides enforcement and education, Montanye said engineering solutions are high on the list of priorities for reducing crashes. He said by identifying problem traffic areas, officials often can employ simple engineering solutions to an almost miraculous effect.
He pointed to the intersection of East Arlington Boulevard and Smythewyck Drive, where drivers attempting left turns to and from shopping areas and drivers trying to cross Arlington caused frequent crashes, including a fatality in January 2017.
The city installed traffic delineators there to limit left turns and prevent drivers from crossing. Montanye said the delineators have eliminated wrecks at the location.
The help identify similar trouble spots and solutions, police department public information officer Kristen Hunter serves on the task force and is trying to elicit public feedback and provide information on the group’s efforts.
A Facebook entry about the task force posted Tuesday had generated hundreds of comments and 80 shares by Saturday.
Hunter said between stepped-up enforcement and publicity about the effort, she hopes that Greenville will become known as a place where drivers who break the law get tickets rather than a place known for dangerous driving.
Montanye said the majority of people who commute in city every day are aware of issues that the task force hopes to address. He said awareness is the two-fold solution to safer driving in Greenville.
If residents stay vigilant in problem areas and inform the department of these areas, streets will be safer in years to come.
“The motorists know what the problems are, they know where the problem areas are, this isn’t something new — just stay alert,” he said. “Continue to give us your feedback, let us know what it is that you would like to see us enforce, or what needs to put out in the media, or engineering concerns that need to be suggested to the city.”
Contact Seth Gulledge at 329-9579 and Sgulledge@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth
Following is data on the number of crashes in the Greenville city limits compiled by the N.C. Department of Transportation between 2012 and 2016. Numbers for 2017 were included in recent three year totals, but an individual breakdown of 2017 numbers was not available. Reported crashes must involve more than $1,000 damage, an injury or a DWI.
2016: Crashes: 4,571; crashes with injury: 1,875; fatal crashes: nine
2015: Crashes: 4,278; crashes with injury: 1,635; fatal crashes: 11
2014: Crashes: 3,713; crashes with injury: 1,407; fatal crashes: one
2013: Crashes: 4,525; crashes with injury: 1,502; fatal crashes: four
2012: Crashes: 4,011; crashes with injury: 1,375; fatal crashes: eight
Top 10 Greenville intersections for crashes in 2017
1) Greenville Boulevard and Evans Street
2) Charles Boulevard and Fire Tower Road
3) Arlington Boulevard and Fire Tower Road
4) Arlington Boulevard and Red Banks Road
5) Arlington Boulevard and Evans Street
6) Arlington Boulevard and Stantonsburg Road
7) Greenville Boulevard and Arlington Boulevard
8) Greenville Boulevard and 10th Street
9) Dickinson Avenue and Arlington Boulevard
10) Memorial Drive and Westhaven Road