Putting more teeth in the ‘no-left-turn’ policy

By on June 16, 2021

Southern Shores to increase police presence, add signage

(File photo credit: Kip Tabb)

After motorists used a number of strategies to circumvent the town-instituted “no left-turn” restriction from westbound U.S. 158 onto S. Dogwood Trail last weekend, Southern Shores plans on a few changes this weekend, including increasing the police presence at the intersection.

Motorists coming over the Wright Memorial Bridge bound for vacation destinations to the north in Duck and Corolla have long used Southern Shores neighborhoods as a shortcut to avoiding N.C. 12, resulting in more than a decade of seasonal traffic woes that have become increasingly acute in recent years.

The “no-left-turn” weekends— which began last weekend and will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 15 — are an attempt to deter the cut-through traffic that is clogging the municipality’s residential streets. But problems were reported after last week’s effort, with some observers complaining that Southern Shores needs to take more comprehensive measures to tackle the problem.

Reports on social media over the weekend noted that travelers, in an effort to get onto S. Dogwood Trail, were pulling into the newly opened 7-Eleven at U.S. 158 or turning onto The Woods Road to turn around and cross U.S. 158 to head northbound on S. Dogwood Trail.

“Apparently the no left-hand turn on Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores is a joke,” one post read. “No one is there to do anything about it.” Another social media commenter noted that some vehicles were passing the intersection and “making a U-turn smack in the middle of 158, then turning on Dogwood anyway. Someone’s gonna get hurt.”

In a Voice interview, Southern Shores Town Manager Cliff Ogburn noted that in addition to an increased police presence this weekend, it is anticipated that the left-turn traffic signal onto S. Dogwood Trail would be a permanent red light during the restricted hours. Due to difficulties, the North Carolina Department of Transportation was unable to make it a permanent red light last weekend.

Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett also told the Voice that there will be additional “Local Only Traffic” signs placed at E. Dogwood and Hickory, Hillcrest, Sea Oats and Wax Myrtle to further discourage cut-through traffic. “We’ll see if it makes any real difference and if it does make a difference, what other problems we generate,” Bennett noted.

As far as the verdict on the first weekend, Bennett said, “I think it worked as I well as I would have expected it to work, because people are just going to follow what Waze tells them to do, or whatever app they happen to be using. “There is no quick fix. We have to try different things and see how we make them work.”

Tommy Karole, who chaired the cut-thru traffic committee that offered recommendations to the Southern Shores Town Council in March, thinks the solution is simple. Those recommendations included the installation of two radio frequency-controlled gates accessed only by residents – one on South Dogwood Trail and the other on Juniper Trail.

“One simple gate,” he asserted. “We’re not blocking off the town of Southern Shores, making it private and all this other nonsense on social media. One simple gate is going to tell people coming across [the bridge] on WAZE that they can’t go through Southern Shores. You can’t make a U turn.”

Karole asserted that the roads in Southern Shores are owned by the town, not the state. “[They are] owned, maintained and paid for by the taxpayer,” he said. “And we have every right to limit traffic.”

“The Town Council in Southern Shores is treating this as if it’s a new problem,” he added. “We experimented with the no left turns last year and it did not work. And now, all of the sudden, it’s become a safety issue, a quality-of-life issue and a property value issue. It’s time for them to get off their hands and stop the traffic.”

Southern Shores resident Ann Sjoerdsma said she witnessed people turning right on The Woods Road on June 12 in order to turn around to get on South Dogwood. She was also in traffic along South Dogwood Trail that came to a dead stop that day. “It was a no-left-turn weekend and it seemed like it was open season,” she said. “It didn’t seem to affect the traffic that much…I was really shocked.”

Sjoerdsma, a longtime town resident who operates The Southern Shores Beacon online site, favors a comprehensive approach to the traffic problems plaguing the town.

“I think there is a lot of frustration by residents and homeowners who have been dealing with it for ten years that the Town Council’s pretty much put its head in the sand and is still not prepared to do what’s necessary to alleviate the cut-through traffic,” she said. “And especially since they had this whole year to at least try something or come up with something different.”

She added that it’s past time that the towns and county came together to develop a plan to address the traffic issues, asserting that, “I really think there needs to be a comprehensive effort involving all those jurisdictions just to keep [the traffic] on the thoroughfare and move them through.”

For his part, Bennett acknowledged the difficulty of the challenge at hand. “We’ve been talking about so many options for so many years,” the mayor noted. “We are concerned and trying to correct the problem. It’s a real tough task.”

See Also: Southern Shores again tries to tame tourist traffic





  • Edwina Norris

    Here is another way tourists circumvent the no left turn restriction at South Dogwood Trail: Drivers go up to the Marketplace, turn around in the parking lot, take a right at the light back onto 158, then make a right-turn onto South Dogwood Trail. My Husband and I have seen it happen, summer of 2020. We moved away in Fall of 2020, but after living in Southern Shore for 32+ and having to put up with the summer traffic nightmare, we sympathize with S.S. residents’ problems and hope the town will come up with a workable solution – SOON!

    Thursday, Jun 17 @ 6:07 pm
  • Victoria Green

    The traffic problem is WAY out of hand. When the residents of SS cannot even sit on their front decks or walk their dogs on the weekends because of the traffic, that is unacceptable. Especially since all those tourists going through the town are not spending one cent in the town of SS. All they are doing is wear and tear on our roads and residents. It is time for the Town Council to step up to the plate and do their jobs! Clearly the No Left Hand turn would work if we had Police enforcement.

    Friday, Jun 18 @ 2:42 pm
  • Lucas

    Dylan, do you always follow the rules? Do you ever exceed the speed limit or follow too closely? Have you ever driven through a cross walk and not yielded to the pedestrians who were waiting to cross? Maybe you shouldn’t be throwing stones or calling tourists a “classless species”. People in general are much more self serving than they used to be. That extends far beyond just the tourist who come to the outer banks and I would even venture to say extends to many residents of the outer banks as well. Wanting to gate or prevent people from using a public road could be viewed as self serving. I sympathize with the residents of Southern Shores who lived there before this was a problem however, I don’t sympathize with those who moved in after this was a problem and now want there to be change…

    Friday, Jun 18 @ 4:34 pm
  • hightider

    Maybe the solution is to have all the real residents simply find another place to live off the OBX while the dread hordes are here.

    Friday, Jun 18 @ 10:33 pm
  • Dylan

    As a matter of fact, I do NOT blatantly and intentionally violate traffic rules that are in place for the sake of public safety. Public safety is certainly not “self-serving.” Hence the word “public.”

    Only those tourists who do are a “classless species” and we do not need or want those types here.

    Saturday, Jun 19 @ 8:22 am
  • jim

    If you keep electing the same person for mayor, and a town council consisting of like minded people; how do you expect a different outcome this time from previous years.

    Look how they’re solving the water ponding problem at the north end of Sea Oats Trail (at NC 12). Wait till the new improved wider road surface is finished. Oh, of course, Mayor Bennett told everyone in a town meeting back in 2015 that the only problem area was the East Dogwood intersection which they promptly fixed. Does he even know the northern border of Southern Shores ??

    Sunday, Jun 20 @ 7:05 am
  • John

    So Southern Shores residents get special treatment for traffic?
    Those are public roads how would this ever stand up in court?
    So police are blocking fully legal drivers from accessing public roads?
    Sounds just like duck trying to privatize their beaches………..
    Build the bridge so we can keep these special residents and their guests seperate from the real outer banks.
    Southern shores=Yankee mentality

    Them blocking southern shores made the traffic 10x worse yesterday blocked up until 7pm. Wow!!

    Sunday, Jun 20 @ 9:52 am
  • Publius

    My concern over the long-term, if indeed that’s what we have until the still-uncertain completion of the Mid-Currituck Bridge, is that by focusing on the admittedly debilitating traffic in Southern Shores we’re focusing our finite energy and resources on an outcome effect of a larger problem rather than the core problem itself.

    From my perspective, the root cause of these ferocious backups continues to be wide open pedestrian access in Duck across Route 12. If we think of Duck as the Oregon Inlet bridge to Corolla and the northern beaches, think what kind of traffic snarls we’d see if we made the Basnight Bridge wide open to pedestrians and yet that’s exactly what we’ve done. For shorter-term fixes, I’d love to see the local towns and counties work with the Town of Duck to bring about some kind of pedestrian regulation in Duck (pedestrian bridges over the road, as an example, or lighted crosswalk windows) as a way to relieve the traffic pressure across the larger area that, as a second-order impact, penalizes the local workforce and compounds workforce development challenges across the northern beaches. We’d all note that the traffic flows much better north of Duck once the crosswalks are in the rear-view as an example of much less pedestrian traffic.

    On a side note, if given the traffic this summer the Mid-Currituck Bridge isn’t given a fast green light this legislative session I think we’d better chalk it up to mythology rather than infrastructure.

    Thursday, Jun 24 @ 2:25 pm