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Charlotte leaders commemorate 205 people killed in local car crashes

City of Charlotte
David Flower

Charlotte leaders this past Sunday commemorated the hundreds of lives that have been lost on city streets for the "World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims."

The day is meant to bring awareness to the alarming number of people killed and severely injured in preventable traffic crashes. In 2021, 42,060 people in the U.S. died in traffic crashes, according to theNational Safety Council.So far in 2022, there has been a 7% increase in people killed nationwide compared to 2021.

That trend isn’t reflected locally, however: After years of higher traffic deaths, Charlotte fatalities are down so far this year. Forty-two people have died this year in traffic wrecks in Charlotte.

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“While Charlotte’s fatal crashes are currently down by 32%, we cannot bring back the lives that have already been lost to traffic violence,” said the city’s Transportation Director Debbie Smith.

City leaders and volunteers placed 205 pairs of shoes in First Ward Park in uptown Sunday to represent those who lost their lives in traffic wrecks in Charlotte between 2019 and 2021. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said traffic enforcement is a priority, but the city also needs people to drive responsibly.

“Listening to the stories from people who have lost loved ones, and understanding the trauma that these types of fatalities leave behind, we want to assure those families that CMPD remains committed to working together with community leaders to do what we can to make Charlotte a Vision Zero City,” said Jennings, referencing the city’s pledge to end traffic fatalities by 2030.

Three bonds approved in the midterm elections included $146.2 million of transportation funding, which will go toward sidewalk improvements, walkability and pedestrian safety measures and more transportation infrastructure. Shannon Binns, executive director of the advocacy group Sustain Charlotte, said he hopes the city will continue to invest in safety measures to help reduce traffic fatalities.

“We must redesign our streets for the safety of those most vulnerable and commit to making safety a higher priority than speed,” said Binns. “We applaud the city of Charlotte's efforts to move in this direction and urge them to always prioritize their critical work of ensuring that our streets are safe for every person.”

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Kenny is a Maryland native who began his career in media as a sportswriter at Tuskegee University, covering SIAC sports working for the athletic department and as a sports correspondent for the Tuskegee Campus Digest. Following his time at Tuskegee, he was accepted to the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program as a Marketing Intern for The NASCAR Foundation in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2017.