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Rural Roads, Bridges In NC Among Nation's Most Dangerous

A rural road in western North Carolina.
Elizabeth Baier
A rural road in western North Carolina.

North Carolina had the third-highest sheer number of rural traffic fatalities in the country in 2015, according to data collected by the Federal Highway Administration.

Based on those numbers, the national non-profit transportation research group TRIP recently released a report that names North Carolina's rural infrastructure among the most deadly in the nation.

TRIP Spokeswoman Carolyn Kelly said North Carolina ranks high in rural fatalities even after controlling for population. TRIP calculated each state's rural road fatality rating based on the number of deaths per 100 million miles traveled by the state's population.  

"In fact, the state was 8th in the nation in the fatality rate on rural non-interstate roads, and that fatality rate was multiple times higher than we see on all the other roads in the state," Kelly said.

Tiffany Wright of AAA Carolinas responded to the report.

"We know being ranked 8th in the country for rural road fatalities isn't something to be proud of," Wright said. "But with the creation of the strategic transportation investment program back in 2013, North Carolina has recently been investing more intention and more in funds than ever into fixing and repairing its roads and bridges."

The Federal Highway Administration's national bridge inventory determined that 11 percent of the state's rural bridges are structurally deficient.

"What that means is that there's significant deterioration to major components of the bridge. These bridges are safe for travel, but  some of them need significant repairs, or even replacement in some cases," Kelly said.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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