Fatals are down, but auto wrecks are dramatically up in Charlotte

The number of vehicle crashes on Charlotte streets increased significantly in 2013 compared with 2012, despite people driving only slightly more miles, according to a city report released this week.

There were 20,957 vehicle collisions in 2013 compared with 14,514 in 2012. That’s a 44 percent increase.

The total number of vehicle miles driven in 2013 was 19.8 million miles, which is only 1 percent more miles than in 2012.

The good news is that the number of fatal collisions was 43 in 2013 compared with 44 a year earlier.

There were nine pedestrian deaths in 2013, down from 21 in 2012. The total number of pedestrian collisions with vehicles was 317, up from 299 a year earlier.

As Charlotte becomes more urban, the city has been concerned about pedestrian safety. Much of the city was developed without pedestrians in mind, and now apartments and other high-density developments are being built along wide, high-speed roads.

The city now requires newer streets to meet so-called urban-street design guidelines, which include sidewalks.

It’s also trying to retrofit older streets with sidewalks, including areas such as West Tyvola Road, where two young boys were killed in 2012 after being hit by a delivery truck while they were walking. The road didn’t have sidewalks at the time.

The city doesn’t compare pedestrian deaths or accidents against how many miles people walk. It only compares the number of accidents to the size of the city’s population.

Debbie Smith of the Charlotte Department of Transportation said she didn’t know why vehicle-on-vehicle collisions jumped in 2013.

One possibility is rain. The city of Charlotte’s Storm Water Services department said total rainfall in 2013 was 19 percent above average.

About 19 percent of the city’s crashes occurred on wet streets.

Smith said the total number of crashes in 2013 was similar to a five-year period from 2004 to 2008. After the 2008 recession, people started driving less and crashes also fell.

“When the recession hit, (vehicle miles traveled) went significantly down,” Smith said. “For a five-year period we saw decades-low numbers. We see numbers coming back to prerecession levels.”

The report covers streets and roads inside the city limits. It doesn’t include interstates.

The city also has a list of most crash-prone intersections.

The two most dangerous intersections are East Eighth Street and North College Street, and East Ninth Street and North College Street. The two intersections had a combined 38 crashes in the last three years.

The intersection that had the most number of collisions during the three-year period was Albemarle Road and W.T. Harris Boulevard, with 114. Because that intersection is one of the busiest in terms of traffic, it was only the city’s 33rd-most crash-prone intersection.

Smith said the list of crash-prone intersections can help the city.

“It gives us a tool to start looking in-depth at these locations,” she said. “Are there patterns of crashes? Do we have a mitigation strategy?”

Harrison: 704-358-5160