Local News

Benson residents cruise Main Street in defiance of ban

Posted April 12

Cars cruise Benson on Saturday night, April 12, 2014.

— A number of residents in Benson took to the streets Saturday night to cruise in their cars, an activity that's been banned by the town since 1996.

Lee Blackmon, a lifelong Johnston County resident who grew up in Benson, coordinated the event through Facebook. He said he got the idea after eating at a Waffle House with his sons and talking to them about what he used to do when he was young.

Blackmon estimated more than 300 people participated in the event, which he dubbed “Cruise Benson,” along Main Street. Police were also out in force, checking license plates and monitoring the crowds.

Under the town’s ordinance, it is illegal to drive past a traffic control point three times or more within two hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Sunday. The penalty is a $50 fine plus fees and court costs, which add up to $241.

Town leaders were aware of the event and posted a message on Benson's Facebook page Friday, encouraging people to park their cars and stroll instead.

“We’d rather not see you spend $241 for a ticket. We’d rather you spend your money with our local merchants and stores,” the message said.

About 2,000 people used to cruise Main Street on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. But the town's Board of Commissioners outlawed the activity after two men who visited the town on cruising nights were killed. One was shot; the other was beaten to death.

Town Manager Matt Zapp said elected leaders took "prudent action" at the time, and they now must "enforce the rules that are on the books."

Zapp said he spoke to Blackmon on Friday and invited him to come to the April 29 meeting of the Board of Commissioners to discuss the issue.

"If it's a change they want to see come back, it's definitely open for dicussion," Zapp said.

The cruising event prompted the Benson Police Department to put 12 of its 15 officers on duty Saturday night, including the chief, Zapp said. He said everyone was polite and respectful, and no tickets were written or arrests made.

Blackmon said he plans to lobby town leaders to repeal the ban, which he thinks has hurt the downtown's economy. For example, he said, many fast food restaurants left after the ban because of a lack of customers.

"We'll go through the right channels to get this changed," he said.

Meanwhile, Saturday night was a time for reminiscing for Blackmon. He said most of the participants were older people or parents who brought their kids along to cruise up and down Main Street.

“I saw a lot of people I went to school with,” he said. "This brought back a lot of memories."

30 Comments

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  • JoConProud Apr 14, 4:11 p.m.

    I'm from Benson and this "cruise in" is no different than the weekend of Mule Days. It is exactly the same thing except possibly safer b/c there aren't a bunch of intoxicated men/women on horses thinking they own the streets. There was probably more police at the cruise in than there are during Mule Days. They will not do away with Mule Days because of the $$ it brings to the town so leave the kids alone and let them cruise.

  • nufsaid Apr 14, 4:00 p.m.

    I think it would be great to bring it back. We used to go to the beach a lot when I was way... View More

    — Posted by outhousecat

    I was caught in the traffic jams a few times in the past. It was very, very frustrating. Now I40 makes Benson irrelevant when it comes to traffic jams. But I still avoid Benson as I got a bad taste of the town back in the day.

  • Schwoogie Apr 14, 2:58 p.m.

    can we get an ordinance against loud mufflers and let them cruise. They come by and rattle the windows. There should be something against that. The cruising I don't care.

  • iopsyc Apr 14, 2:55 p.m.

    You see son, when there is a law that you find unfair or don't want to follow you can just break... View More

    — Posted by Ijaz Fahted

    The article states"no tickets were written or arrests made", so it would appear no laws were actually broken. So maybe they cruised within the limits of the law (i.e. they did not drive past a traffic control point three times or more within two hours).

    Did you miss the part where he stated he will work through the right channels to get the law changed?

  • nobodyknow420 Apr 14, 2:35 p.m.

    What an inspiration! I always get my great ideas at the waffle house, too!!

  • Ijaz Fahted Apr 14, 2:19 p.m.

    You see son, when there is a law that you find unfair or don't want to follow you can just break the law since the law doesn't really matter.

  • outhousecat Apr 14, 1:17 p.m.

    I think it would be great to bring it back. We used to go to the beach a lot when I was way younger, before 40 went past Benson. NOBODY wanted to get caught in Benson on Friday or Saturday night. I could literally take 45 minutes to get through town.

    Now people have the option to take 40 rather than NC-50. I don't think the traffic jams would cause near the consternation now that they did then.

  • traciesmithrhodes2013 Apr 14, 1:08 p.m.

    What a great tradition was lost - as well as the "life" in Benson, when cruising was banned. If you never experienced it, of course, it would be hard to understand the joy of it. But just as we gather anywhere else for any other event, "cruising" was an event in its very own right in which people came from near and far to participate. Yes, traffic was bumper to bumper and creeping - but, there was a patron at every drive-thru window, gas pump and open store front, too! I hope an agreement can be reached to allow our youth back onto the streets of Benson without harrassment for "passing checkpoint 3 times." And if cruising ever gets back to full-swing like it used to be, they'll be lucky to pass ANY checkpoint THREE TIMES!

  • Lee Co Rat Apr 14, 12:46 p.m.

    Can't wait till this "no caps, no punctuation" trend is over.

    Cant wait til this way to serious trend is over with

  • torchhappysean Apr 14, 12:34 p.m.

    I vaguely remeber that this ban was originally put in place because of gang ativity that was becoming a problem for them. I have a hard time understanding why they couldn't just run the gangs off and let the average citizens keep crusing like it used to be. I remember doing this when I was in high school and we never had problems much beyond someone getting a ticket for smoking their tires or parking in ano parking zone.. So because of a small handful of irresponsible people we all have to suffer...

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