Anyone driving in Highlands is encountering the extensive road paving. In addition, we should all be concerned about traffic safety as we cruise down newly paved roads while Highlands opens for the impending post pandemic season.
I recently attended a meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee of the Southwestern Regional Planning Commission. The guest speaker was Brian Murphy, a NCDOT traffic safety specialist. He presented some very interesting statistics concerning traffic safety.
Brian pointed out that while travel miles in the state decreased in the year of the pandemic, fatal car crashes across the state went up from 1,470 in 2019 to 1,649 in 2020. The good news for the surrounding 7 county area was that the number of fatal crashes went down significantly, from 34 in 2019 to 17 in 2020.
The puzzling thing about the state’s increase in fatalities during this period was that there was a dramatic decrease in total miles traveled by the motoring public. Reported car crashes also decreased during this period from 316,955 in 2019 to 271, 887 in 2020. Experts continue on analyze what caused the increase in fatalities.
Bringing these numbers down to the local level is informative. Brian showed a slide of crashes and fatalities for Macon County and Jackson County for the ten year period from 2010 to 2020. Macon County has 7, 730 crashes and 67 fatalities during the 10 year period. Jackson County had 8,412 crashes and 61 fatalities.
In Highlands we had 518 crashes for the 10 year period. That averages about 1 car crash per week. The good news is that we had no fatalities in the last 10 years which is truly good news. Nevertheless, we all need to be vigilant in our driving to make sure that statistic does not change.
Basic driving practices can help, such as not driving while impaired and not texting. There is no need to drive anywhere in the town limits at a speed over 35 mph. Our smaller neighborhood streets mostly have posted limits of 20 or less. Stopping at stop signs, like the newly installed ones at NC 28, Satulah and South Streets is also critical.
Another area of concern for me is the safety of our pedestrians and bicycling community. Accidents involving these two groups were up statewide during the pandemic period. It might be because more people were walking and biking while staying at home. Nevertheless, we need to be aware of walkers and cyclists in Highlands, especially in the downtown area. There is no reason to be driving down Main Street over 15 mph, especially where there is parking in the center of the street.
Local walkers also have a responsibility to be alert concerning vehicles. While more sidewalks are desirable, sidewalks on every and on both sides of the street is not going to happen. Folks need to remember that small town streets are primarily vehicular roadways.
Let’s continue to keep Highlands safe, by being responsible, alert and patient. No need to rush.
- Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor