Data shows alcohol-related crashes in rural NC counties on the rise

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It was an early morning phone call on Nov. 10, 2013 that changed Kim Edens’ life forever – that’s when she found out her daughter Casey died in a car crash.

“I just kept saying, ‘No it’s not true. No,’” said Kim Edens. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was just a bad dream. I fell to my knees, I just couldn’t believe it.”

The 16-year-old Harnett County Central student was in a car with a drunk driver.

“That night she thought she was making the right choice but she didn’t,” said Edens.

The crash on Neills Creek Rd near Lillington in Harnett County killed three. It was one of 144 alcohol-related crashes that year in the county.

A couple of years later, the numbers grew. In 2015, alcohol-related wrecks jumped to 160 in Harnett County.

A similar trend in rural counties appeared. Crash data from the Highway Safety Research Center at UNC showed the numbers also going up in Chatham, Vance and Granville Counties.

In Chatham County in 2013 there were 58 alcohol-related crashes. In 2015, that number was 75. In Vance County, the number went up from 63 in 2013 to 80 in 2015. In Granville County, there were six more alcohol-related collisions in 2015 compared to 2013.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said statewide, the number of DWI arrests has also increased.

“As we have more people come to the area, that puts more people on the roadway and at times it’s going to put more people impaired behind the wheel who decide to make that wrong mistake,” said Sgt. Michael Baker.

Baker said that population growth is a contributing factor to the rise in crashes in rural areas. In Harnett County, the population has grown by over 16,000 since 2010.

He said secondary roads are not as wide as interstates. These roads have more curves, making it harder to navigate.

“That of course may contribute to the collision…but always, normally, it is the impaired driver,” Baker said.

Kyle Morgan was traveling on one of those secondary roads in Macon County when a drunk driver caused a crash that left him paralyzed.

“The moment I lost control of the vehicle, the moment I flew out of the window, it was as if I took all those plans I had and threw them out with me,” said Morgan.

He was just 22. He had plans to join the military and improve his boxing. Instead he nearly died on the side of Wild Horizon Road.

Morgan was the one behind the wheel driving drunk.

“Here I am, 7 years later and I am still waiting to wake up,” said Morgan.

Now, he spends his time as a public speaker, pleading with people to not make the same mistake he did.

“I want to be able to say I saved someone’s life,” he said.

As for Kim Edens, she joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving. For the first time, she is sharing her story, hoping to reverse the dangerous tide of DWIs.

“No one should ever lose a child to a drunk driver,” Edens said.

To contact Kyle Morgan for a speaking engagement, send an email to Cordoflife@icloud.com.

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