ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) - For North Carolina Highway Patrol, the mission has been pretty clear for the past couple years; cut the number of traffic fatalities in half.
That mission became even more difficult in Robeson County this year when 5 people died on the roads in the first 12 days of January. Sgt. Daniel Hilburn says the number was alarming, but he and his troop kept with protocol. "We try to evaluate every fatal collision and take personal ownership in that fatality and try to determine what causing factors led to this accident as well as the fatality," said Sgt. Hilburn.
That protocol is what has made Hilburn's troop so successful for several years now. In 2012, the troop saw 44 people die on Robeson County roads. The next year, that number was 34, and last year it was down to 30. That reduction of 32 percent isn't the 50 they're striving for, but it's the best a troop in Robeson County has done in years.
"Are we doing more with less?" questioned Sgt. Hilburn. "In one aspect as far as boots on the ground, we could probably use twice as many troopers." He says while the county keeps growing, the number of troopers has stayed the same. What's helped their success is what the troopers now have at their disposal.
Highway patrol has started new education programs around the state and it now has more sophisticated equipment. That new equipment helps analyze each accident so troopers know when and where to patrol in the future.
"We could always use more personnel, but if you combine the technology we have today with the personnel that North Carolina Highway Patrol has, we're doing an excellent job in trying to counteract the severity of these fatalities and crashes that occur on the highways in the state of North Carolina," Sgt. Hilburn explained.
The biggest thing that has come out of the new equipment and programs is what troopers now know they should crack down on.
In Robeson County, the troop focuses on speeding, driving while impaired, and safety belt violations. This effort, in some cases, doubled the citations in the past year.