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DEATH TOLL SPIKES

August 23, 2012

A Greensboro, N.C. man died in this 1998 Mercedes Benz in Barton early yesterday, bringing the state's motor vehicle death count to 53. Four people died in area fatalities during the summer. A line of mangled wrecks is building up behind the state police barracks in Derby. Photo by Christopher Roy

BARTON – In what is becoming an alarming trend statewide, a Greensboro, N.C. man died after a car crash early yesterday morning but his passenger, who was wearing a seat belt, escaped with minor injuries.
State police say Quinn Finnegan, 23, lost control of his 1998 Mercedes Benz on Route 16 in Barton at around 1:10 AM. The vehicle left the south side of the road, traveled back across both lanes, went off the north side of the road and down a small embankment, struck several trees and overturned. The vehicle sustained damage to the front end and roof.
Finnegan was not wearing his seatbelt. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Finnegan’s passenger, Kelsey Crelin, 27, of West Glover, sustained minor injuries. Emergency responders treated her on the scene. She was wearing her seatbelt.
This accident makes the third fatal crash and fourth death that troopers from the Derby barracks handled in the past four to five weeks.
Sgt. Michael Lacourse said police are still investigating most of the crashes and can’t comment on the causes. Lacourse said the operators in two of the three crashes were not wearing seat belts, which seem to have contributed to the deaths.
Part of the investigations might include collecting data from the airbag control modules. Similar to black boxes in airplanes, the modules collect information like rpms of the engine, vehicle speed and if the occupants used seatbelts.
“It kind of gives a picture of what the entire vehicle was doing as a whole prior to the crash,” said Lacourse.
Most newer vehicles have devices that record information. It’s not yet known if Finnegan’s vehicle has the device.
Lacourse isn’t sure if the sudden rash of fatal accidents out of the Derby barracks is a record, but said there has certainly been a spike compared to previous years. 
Lacourse suggested one reason for the increase is drivers using deceives like cell phones. “There’s always a risk of driver distraction,” he said. “Speed of course can always be a factor.”
Lacourse hopes the spike is a coincidence and the numbers will decrease.
“We’d like to have it at zero if possible,” said Lacourse. “We do that through increased traffic operations patrol.”
Police work towards getting the numbers at zero by doing speed enforcement, DUI enforcement and other techniques. They also encourage seat belt use and slower and less aggressive driving. Police discourage texting and driving.
As the Labor Day weekend approaches, police stateside and nationwide will step up patrols.

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