WRAL Investigates

Fort Bragg cracking down on speeders on deadly road

Posted April 19, 2010

— Plank Road is a popular shortcut across Fort Bragg trimming several miles off the trip between Fayetteville and Southern Pines.

At a glance, the road looks benign. It's a scenic, two-lane stretch that rolls through a nearly unbroken pine forest. There are no homes and no businesses for miles.

Yet Plank Road has been the scene of 60 wrecks and an unknown number of fatalities in the last two years.

Caroline Nicol, husband was killed on Plank Road Widow: Drivers need to slow down on Plank Road

Andrew "Nic" Nicol, 49, a retired Special Forces soldier, was one of those killed. He was heading west on Dec. 7 when an eastbound van ran off the right side of the road, and the driver, Lacretia Cook of Raeford, over-corrected and swerved into Nicol's lane.

Military police said that Cook was traveling at an estimated 87 mph at the time of the head-on collision. She has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Nicol's widow, Caroline Nicol, said speeding is out of control on Plank Road.

"He never, ever went above 60 (mph) because he knew the road's not safe," she said. "I know there have been times I've been driving down the road, and my car has (jerked) because somebody has flown past me so fast."

Caroline Nicol calls the western stretch of Plank Road "the wild west," noting speed enforcement has been especially lacking there.

Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said that is changing.

"We have picked up our patrols on it to include speed traps," McCollum said.

In 2008, military police issued 116 tickets to drivers on Plank Road who were clocked at 21 mph or more above the speed limit. Last year, they wrote 260 such tickets.

Still, the number of wrecks increased from 27 in 2008 to 33 last year.

Fort Bragg authorities have declined to provide the number of fatalities from those wrecks, despite a Freedom of Information Act request. McCollum did say that all of the fatalities have involved drivers exceeding 70 mph.

"You have a lot of wildlife in the area, especially at night. You have military convoys that are not moving at 55 mph, and definitely not 70 (mph)," he said.

With federal economic stimulus money, Fort Bragg has added a traffic light at Wayside Road, which is a common entry point for drivers onto Plank Road.

"Let's make it as safe as possible, and Fort Bragg has really done as much as it can, but it all goes back to the driver," McCollum said.

He said Fort Bragg has joint jurisdiction of Plank Road with other law enforcement agencies, including the Hoke County Sheriff's Office. Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said Monday that he hasn't had an agreement with the post for several years but would be happy to resume speed patrols on Plank Road if invited.

Caroline Nicol said she wants other drivers to learn a lesson from her husband's death.

"Knowing how dangerous the road is and just knowing what you can do by being so careless, (drivers need) to decide, because there aren't any police out there, that you (can't) just drive and do whatever you want to do," she said. "I don't want anybody to feel like I do because of somebody else's carelessness."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • SPHeel Apr 20, 2010

    There are two issues with this road.

    1)There are pretty much no paved shoulders and the unpaved shoulders are poorly maintained and often washed out.

    2)People freak out when they drive onto the shoulder of a road even if the shoulder is in good shape. A certain percentage of people insist on jerking the wheel to the left when their right side tires go off the road. This can lead to rollovers and crossing over into oncoming traffic. You're supposed to make no sudden moves, let the vehicle naturally slow down, then ease back onto the pavement. Of course, on Plank rd, I've seen the shoulder so washed out in places, serious damage and/or loss of control are almost a guarantee if your wheels go off the pavement.

  • WXYZ Apr 20, 2010

    "Deadly road"....hmmm. The article did not mention land mines, dead falls, huge pot holes, snipers, spike traps or the like. Actually, this is a very "good" road, which serves a very good purpose. Why blame the road for human bad behavior? May the offenders be caught and duly punished.

  • Bob3425 Apr 20, 2010

    This road is truly dangerous. Twice while going out deer hunting I came upon vehicle that roll over during the night, both had fatalities. Plank road is 55mph, while the road look straight it is not, losing control is very easy if you hit those curves (like the one near Mott Lake) or someone is passing and misjudges the amount of room they need. The whole circle Plank, King and Manchester road is a magnet for speeder; those roads have everything, slow moving vehicles, cyclist, rucksack marcher, runners, and wildlife, not to mention the roads itself.

  • Nunya123 Apr 19, 2010

    Wait a minute. All of the anti speed limit idiots claim that speed doesn't kill. Guess this is the exception.