Local News

How Fast is Too Fast? Part 2

Posted February 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Ask a dozen drivers where the speed traps are and they may give you a dozen answers. Our investigative reporter Stuart Watson took a different approach.

Using a computer, he looked at more than 300,000 North Carolina speeding tickets.

The WRAL5 Investigates computer analysis included only tickets written by the highway patrol. It did not include tickets issued by police officers or by sheriffs' departments. And, no matter how many tickets troopers end up writing, they have no financial incentive to write more tickets -- because none of the fines is returned to the highway patrol budget..

Troopers' blue lights are flashing and they are stopping drivers for pushing the limit.

You might think troopers write the most tickets where they find the most drivers. Not so. For instance, lots more people drive on I-40 by RDU International Airport than on I-40 around South Saunders street in Raleigh. But troopers handed out seven times more tickets around South Saunders. The road is a favored way for getting a beeline to the coast.

Trooper Beckley Vaughan says a lot of beach weekends have gotten off to a rocky start after the drivers were ticketed.

Last year, troopers wrote more than 5000 tickets along I-40 between US-1 at Cary and the Johnston County line. At the same time, troopers wrote fewer than 700 tickets from Cary west to the Durham County line.


It's literally by design. The road design. The wider interstate with barriers in the median makes it tougher for troopers to catch speeders.

Then there are the lanes. With more lanes comes less certainty which driver the radar gun is clocking.

Finally there's a safety factor. Troopers stopping cars along I-40 are concerned they might actually cause an accident in the heavy traffic.

We wanted to find the areas where troopers write the most tickets per driver per mile. We looked for sections of highway with at least a thousand tickets last year.

Here's the top 10 list:

10: US 52 in Stokes County, north of Winston-Salem

9: US 17 in Camden County, north of Elizabeth City

8: US 17 in martin County, near Williamston

7: US 421 in Wilkes County, between the Yadkin County line and Wilkesboro

6: US 321 in Lincoln County, north of Gastonia

5: I-40 in Sampson County, near Clinton

4: US 264 in Pitt County, between the Greenville city limits and the Greene County line

3: I-85 in Rowan County, between the Davidson County line and the Salisbury city limits

2: US 64 in Tyrrell County on the way to Manteo

And North Carolina's number one place with the highest rate of speeding tickets written by state troopers is: US17 in Chowan County near Edenton.

Troopers readily admit some stretches of highway get more enforcement than others. Just don't call those places speed traps.

Horton says he doesn't "really know what a speed trap is."

Vaughan says these areas are "well worked," but that he "certainly don't consider it a speed trap."

Whether you call it a trap or heavy enforcement, the effect is the same. And the effect troopers are working for - to get drivers to stop pushing the limit by pushing the pedal to the metal.