By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on December 15, 2022
After a discussion among the five members and a few comments from residents at their Dec. 12 meeting, a divided Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 against a motion to reduce the speed limit from 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour on the west side of town.
The motion for the speed reduction came from Commissioner Terry Gray and was seconded by Commissioner John Windley. Voting against the reduction were Mayor Ben Sproul, Mayor Pro Tem Ivy Ingram and Commissioner B.J. McAvoy, although all three of them expressed a desire to take some steps to mitigate speeding on those west-side streets.
While no other formal action was taken at the meeting, the board expressed a desire to generate more research on how other communities have dealt with speeding in residential neighborhoods, to potentially prioritize the west-side streets that are most in need of speed mitigation and to examine the possibility of installing more boxes that display a driver’s speed as they pass by.
During the public comment period, W. Martin Street resident Marie Ruggiero said that speed boxes on that street have clocked people going as fast as 60 miles an hour or so. And she told the commissioners that she supported “anything you can do to slow that traffic because it’s not even safe to send my child out to get the mail from the mailbox.”
Laura Swisher, who lives on W. Third Street, also advocated for lowering the speed limit to 20 miles an hour, asserting that the “speeding on West Third Street is horrible. I work from home, I have three dogs, I walk them twice a day and crossing and or just walking on the sidewalk is treacherous.”
During a lengthy commissioners’ discussion of the matter, the division of opinion on the board became apparent.
Speaking in favor of the reduction, Gray stated that, “With the COVID issue, there’s a lot more people that are at home and they’re out walking their dogs and playing with their kids,” making the speeding problem more dangerous in the neighborhoods.
Noting that drivers sometimes motor down his street at 40 miles per hour, Gray added that “I support [the reduction] one hundred percent. We’ve gotta do something to slow people down. They’re just going too fast.”
Windley pointed to concerns regarding traffic heading home in a westerly direction after work, noting that “the sunset is right in our faces, and it makes it extremely difficult to see.” He noted that many drivers slow down under those circumstances, adding that, “Maybe lowering the speed limit at dusk, when visibility is challenged, maybe that could help that.”
Arguing against the 20 mile an hour limit, Ingram acknowledged that, “I didn’t find anyone who said it was a bad idea to lower the speed limit.” But she described driving down streets at 20 miles an hour as “creeping…You have to make an effort to go twenty.”
“Personally I think something needs to be done, I like the idea of the boxes a lot…it self-corrects people,” she said. “Let’s put some money into getting some more boxes.”
McAvoy contended that the lower speed limit would impact everyone for the sake of reining in a small minority of offending drivers. Like Ingram, he said that driving 20 miles an hour “is really hard to do. I don’t like basically punishing everybody for the outliers…I’d like to see more enforcement on the roads…Reducing it to twenty the entire west side just seems extreme to me.”
Sproul, who did not seem particularly eager to have an up and down vote on the measure, stated that, “It really comes down to efficacy in my mind…The little I have seen [in research on the subject] is not making me feel good about the twenty mile an hour actually achieving the goal” of changing the behavior of dangerous drivers. “I see there are unintended negative consequences. I am leaning to more study and boxes.”
He also said, in what appeared to be at least a half-joking statement, that one way of changing behavior around speeding was “public shaming…you take people’s pictures and put it in the paper.”
Town Engineer Pete Burkhimer, wearing both his professional hat and his KDH resident’s hat, also spoke at the Dec. 12 meeting, indicating he was willing to “try and gather the data to do a scientific and technically based adjustment to the speed limit.”
He also suggested blanketing the area with those boxes that display “Your speed” in order to gather data and as a way to affect driver behavior — an expense that would likely run into the tens of thousands. And he also expressed the view that most dangerous driving is a result of a relatively small group of drivers.
Speaking as a citizen, Burkhimer also noted that, “There is a problem” with speeding in residential neighborhoods. “There is no question there is a problem.”
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We live on a court off W landing and jog on w landing. We have been nearly hit a few times by careless drivers. We have seen trash cans hit and the driver continues letting the homeowners pick up everything. Maybe speed bumps would work. They drive at least 50 MPH down the street.
Not ONCE in the article is enforcement of the EXISTING speed limit mentioned. Without enforcement the isn’t one bit of difference between 20 and 25. Except to inconvenience drivers who already observe the speed limit.
My bad it was mentioned once.
Has anyone thought about speed bumps? Those are pretty effective and might even be cheaper than the boxes.
Enforcement of current law prevents the need for new laws.
On First St. I’m more bothered by muffer-less motorcycle noise than by speeders. How do these things pass inspection?!
Speeding on west Eckner by those going to Beachwoods is also out of control but realize its impractical to patrol speed bumps are the only way I can think of to slow those who speed. Lowering the speed without enforcement is meaningless.