CHARLOTTE — Traffic deaths in North Carolina in 2009 were more likely to occur along rural roads, according to an analysis by AAA Carolinas.

Transylvania, Graham, Alleghany, Gates and Hyde counties top AAA’s list of dangerous counties for 2009 fatalities, the latest year for which statistics are available. The five counties represented two percent of 2009 traffic deaths — more than threefold the average ratio of vehicle miles to traffic deaths. They carried only .6 percent of the states vehicle miles traveled in 2009 but accounted for 2 percent of the states traffic fatalities.

Rural roads are generally narrower, with lower shoulders, faded or non-existent road markers, more curves and less police presence than major highways.

“Safety is our number one priority, and we’re working hard to make our roads as safe as possible,” Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said. “Motorists can do their part by slowing down, paying close attention, never drinking and driving, and always wearing their seat belts, which is their best defense if they’re in a crash.”

Transylvania County was the most dangerous for being killed in a collision in 2009, according to the crash analysis. Transylvania County roads logged a fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled compared to the statewide fatality rate of 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicles miles traveled. Transylvania County had .2 percent of all state crashes (509), while only accounting for .2 percent of vehicle miles traveled.

Additionally, .2 percent of the state’s injury crashes (247) and .9 percent (13) of the state’s 1,344 traffic fatalities occurred in Transylvania County.

North Carolina traffic deaths dropped by seven percent in 2009 (1,344), the second time NC has had less than 1,500 traffic fatalities since 1998. This is largely attributed to more targeted traffic enforcement on crash-prone roads by local and state law enforcement officers as well as check points like “Click it or Ticket” or “Booze it and Lose it.”

In 2008, the Tar Heel State was ranked 18th most dangerous state per mile driven with a fatality rate at 1.4 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, according to The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).  South Carolina was ranked third most dangerous state in the same 2008 analysis with a fatality rate of 1.83. The 2009 rate for North Carolina was 1.3, an improvement from 2008.

Safest counties in North Carolina for 2009 were: Currituck for all collisions, Currituck for traffic injuries and Washington for fatal crashes, according to the AAA ranking.

“It is gratifying to see the decrease in fatalities but dismaying to note that nearly four people still die every day on North Carolina roads,” said David E. Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.

The deadliest county for total number of fatalities was Mecklenburg (Charlotte), where 78 individuals were killed in traffic accidents in 2009. This represents 5.8 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities while the county logged more than 10 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.

Graham County, located in the NC Mountains, continued to have the highest percentage of crashes and injuries from motorcycles for the second year in a row.

AAA Carolinas’ annual Dangerous County analysis, inaugurated in 1995, is one of several ways to look at North Carolina traffic crash data and done to remind motorists in the state the need for safe and defensive driving, especially in counties with above average traffic crashes, injuries and deaths.

Dangerous counties are ranked based on the likelihood of a certain type of crash based on total vehicle miles driven. Counties are listed in order of 2009 ranking.

All crashes: Pitt, Cumberland, New Hanover (Wilmington), Onslow and Graham

Injury crashes: Pitt, New Hanover (Wilmington), Graham, Robeson and Cumberland

Fatal crashes: Transylvania, Graham, Alleghany, Gates and Hyde

For all vehicles in North Carolina the total number of crashes decreased approximately two percent to 210,111 from last year’s 214,359, and number of injuries dropped roughly four percent to 109,760 from 113,846 in 2008.

The safest counties in 2009 for all motorists, with the smallest percentage of accidents per mile driven, were:

Total crashes: Currituck, Polk, Haywood, Dare (Outer Banks) and Cherokee

Injury crashes: Currituck, Polk, Orange (Chapel Hill), Madison and Yadkin

Fatal crashes: Washington, Macon, Warren, Durham and Perquimans

AAA Carolinas receives state traffic statistics from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and performs its own analysis to determine the most dangerous counties based on vehicle miles traveled.

AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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