This document presents an updated Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) for the State of North Carolina.  This SHSP (also referenced herein as the Plan) is an important component of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).  The need for a SHSP was established by the federal transportation funding legislation, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act:  A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), and strengthened by the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in July 2012.  MAP-21 specifies that the SHSP must be developed based on safety data on all public roads, be developed in consultation with stakeholders, employ a multidisciplinary approach, describe a program of safety strategies, and consider other highway safety plans and processes.

This updated SHSP was developed through the collaborative efforts of diverse safety stakeholders representing the users of the North Carolina highway system and encompassing the 4 E’s of highway safety—education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency services.  These safety stakeholders include State, regional, local, and tribal agencies, as well as other public and private partners.  This Plan presents a statewide, comprehensive, and collaborative approach for reducing fatalities and serious injuries on North Carolina’s roadways.  Serious injuries are those obviously serious enough to prevent the injured person from performing his or her normal activities for at least one day beyond the day of the crash.  These are also called Type A injuries.

Appendix A provides an overview of the process used for this 2014 Plan update.

Building on Success

The North Carolina SHSP was first developed in 2004 by the North Carolina Executive Committee for Highway Safety (ECHS) in support of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Strategic Highway Safety Plan.  The ECHS adopted AASHTO’s goal to reduce the statewide fatality rate to 1.0 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (MVMT).

The Plan was revised in 2006, and 14 emphasis areas were identified to achieve its goal:

  • Lane Departure
  • Ensuring Drivers Are Fully Licensed
  • Curbing Aggressive Driving
  • Increasing Safety Belt Usage
  • Keeping Drivers Alert
  • Speed
  • Intersection Safety
  • Older Drivers
  • Motorcycles
  • Commercial Motor Vehicles
  • Public Information
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety
  • Incident Management
  • Driver Education

The 2006 Plan provided a strategic framework for the implementation of strategies across the 4 E’s in these 14 areas.  Significant progress was made toward the Plan’s overall goal, as evidenced by the dramatic decrease in the number of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (MVMT) over the eight-year period from 2006 to 2013, presented in Figure 1.  The 2013 fatality rate is just under 1.2 fatalities per 100 MVMT.  Nationally, the fatality rate has also declined during the same period, although not as sharply as in North Carolina.  Evaluations of North Carolina’s engineering safety programs have demonstrated that the collaborative and focused statewide efforts of the SHSP in recent years have contributed to the reductions in fatalities and serious injuries.  Many other factors may also have contributed to this decline, such as vehicle enhancements and economic influences.

Figure 1:  Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled (2006 – 2013).

The fatality rate presented in Figure 1 considers the amount of travel or exposure on North Carolina’s roadways.  The total number of fatalities have also decreased since 2006, as presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2:  Fatalities Resulting from Crashes (2006 – 2013).

The dramatic decrease in the number of annual fatalities since 2006 is similar to the decrease in serious injuries resulting from crashes on North Carolina’s roadways during the same time period, presented in Figure 3.

Figure 3:  Serious Injuries Resulting from Crashes (2006 – 2013).

Although the safety stakeholders implementing the Plan have made significant progress in achieving the statewide goal since 2006, there is still work to be done.  In 2013, 1,260 people died on North Carolina’s roadways, and another 2,109 people were seriously injured. Additionally, the downward trend in fatalities and serious injuries has flattened over the last few years.  This document—an update of the original State SHSP—presents refined goals and objectives, new safety emphasis areas, and additional strategies and actions to build on past success and to continue to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on North Carolina’s roadways.

The Way Forward

The Plan articulates the way forward to achieve Vision Zero—even one fatality is too many on our roadways.
Find out the Plan’s Way Forward.