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‘A public health crisis’ — Each pair of these shoes represents an NC traffic death

Christopher Carnes with the cowboy boots he donated in memory of his late uncle, who recently died in a crash with a distracted driver. It was part of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Sunday, Nov. 18, at the State Capitol in Raleigh.
Christopher Carnes with the cowboy boots he donated in memory of his late uncle, who recently died in a crash with a distracted driver. It was part of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Sunday, Nov. 18, at the State Capitol in Raleigh.

Last year, 1,412 people died in accidents on North Carolina roads.

They were memorialized Sunday as part of the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims — with pairs of shoes representing the victims.

There weren’t quite enough pairs to symbolize a one-to-one match for every victim. But more than 1,000 pairs were on display at the State Capitol grounds downtown, neatly laid out in orderly arcs beneath the statue of George Washington at the south end toward Fayetteville Street.

The shoes were in almost every conceivable style, size, color and condition, from brand new to well-worn, hot-pink to earthtone. They ranged from a size-18 pair of white Nike low-top sneakers down to tiny baby shoes, with everything in between — high heels, high-tops, Crocs, galoshes, sandals, flip-flops, house shoes, even ballet slippers and ski boots.

Some of the shoes had yellow paper flowers, placed in remembrance of specific victims. Most of the volunteer organizers had a personal connection to the issue.

One of them was 22-year-old Christopher Carnes, who donated a pair of black cowboy boots in honor of an uncle who recently died in a crash in Monroe.

“He was killed by a distracted driver at a four-way stop sign by a kid who’d just gotten his license,” said Carnes, who recently graduated from N.C. State University . “The kid was looking for candy on the floor, Skittles or something, and he blew through the stop sign.”

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Shoes were laid out at the south end of the State Capitol in downtown Raleigh for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, Sunday, Nov. 18. Staff photo by David Menconi.

This was the third Raleigh iteration of World Day of Remembrance, which was started to “call attention to the suffering and heartache felt by millions as a result of preventable traffic violence.”

The local organizing group is called NC Vision Zero, which advocates for traffic safety under the auspices of N.C. State’s Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

“The main message is that this is a public health crisis,” said Tracy Anderson, program coordinator for NC Vision Zero. “Traveling is the most dangerous thing we do every day. We could save over 1,000 lives a year if everyone buckled up, slowed down and kept their hands on the wheel and their minds on driving.”

The other 364 days of the year, the shoes are in storage at NC State. N.C. Vision Zero collects them from donors year-round.

“We hope to lower the number of deaths while we’re still collecting shoes,” said Andy Pottkotter, one of the other volunteers. “Maybe that number will converge and we can start throwing them away. That’d be good.”

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

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