Despite fewer travelers, roadways remain deadly for NC drivers this holiday season

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The COVID-19 pandemic may be keeping more people off the road, but alcohol, speed and distracted driving remain endemic to American society.

Statistically, the days before and after Christmas are more dangerous for North Carolina drivers than any other holiday weekend except for Thanksgiving. According to the NC Department of Transportation, the five year average of 1,927 crashes lead to a yearly average of 10 deaths and more than 900 injuries.

So far in 2020, a head-on collision in Johnston County Friday night killed two, including a 78-year-old man. Across the country, the National Safety Council estimates that 340 people may be killed on the roadways during the Christmas holiday driving period.

"The decision that you make in just a split second can change someone's life forever," Leah Quick, whose husband, Jason, was killed in a crash in December 2018, lamented to ABC11. "Your actions can change someone else's life forever and that action that day, not being vigilant, has changed my life and my children's and my in laws and my family and Jason's friends. It has changed our lives forever."

According to investigators, Lumberton Police Officer Jason Quick was dispatched to a disabled vehicle on I-95 Northbound near Exit 22. As he tended the vehicle, a 24-year-old driver struck Quick, 31.

AAA Travel this month forecasted a historic drop in travel - at least 34 million fewer travelers - compared to last year's holiday season, a decline in travel of at least 29%. Indeed, travel restrictions and lockdowns have kept people at home, but that hasn't led to a decline of fatal traffic incidents.

According to the National Safety Council, motor-vehicle deaths shot up 16% in October 2020 compared to October 2019, the latest data available. In North Carolina, death rates remained steady from January to June, then exploded to nearly 40% the 2019 rates over the summer.

"As we were opening gifts, our kids were talking about what they would've bought their dad for Christmas. Madison said she would've bought dad a cell phone, but Jaden said sadly we have to buy him flowers," Quick said. "Pay attention to what you're doing. Pay attention to the road."
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