WRAL Investigates

Fort Bragg cracking down on speeders on deadly road

Posted April 19, 2010 5:38 p.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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."