By Kendall McGee | May 27, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT – Updated May 27 at 7:37 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – In Wilmington, the latest numbers show 30 percent of customers who lost power experienced the outage due to a crash involving a utility pole.
According to Duke Energy, cars hitting utility poles has been among the top three causes of outages in urban areas across the state the last couple of years, and experts say the trend is only worsening.
In 2019, more than 23,000 customers were affected by outages caused by cars hitting poles. In 2020, more than 31,000 customers were affected, even though there were fewer drivers on the road because of the pandemic.
Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks says the numbers reflect Wilmington’s growing population, as well as more crashes happening along busy roads where main power lines run.
“Its a disturbing trend across all of North Carolina,” said Brooks.
Police agree they’ve noticed the increase, too. This type of collision poses a huge safety risk for everyone involved. Fire crews have to stabilize the scene before investigators or power crews can even begin work, and once its deemed safe, the cleanup is very involved.
“Depending on the time of day, the week — it can be anywhere from an hour to three hours because you have to get the equipment, they have to get an extra pole to come out and replace it, so it is a very time consuming and manpower-consuming crash, as opposed to just a rear-ender, which can usually just be handled with an officer,” said Wilmington Police Cpl. Adam Schwartzel.
The power company, though, is trying to tackle the issue it creates for their customers by installing more self-healing technology in the area.
“We have to think about the unplanned outages like cars hitting poles and that self-healing technology that we’re installing that automatically detects power outages and reroutes the power, is one way that we can reduce the impact of this trend and help keep the lights on for most of our customers,” said Brooks.
Technology certainly plays a role in addressing the issue, but experts say it really boils down to a little bit more awareness.
“We’re always in a rush it seems. If we just take the time, drive at or near the speed limit, watch ahead of us, scan ahead of us while we’re driving, a lot of those can be avoided,” said Shwartzel.
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