Divided Kill Devil Hills Board rejects effort to reduce speed on town’s west side

By on December 15, 2022

(iStock)

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.”



Comments

  • Kevin

    The neighborhood south of middle school has had dozens of new homes built in the last three years. It would be wise to pave some of the “paper streets” owned by KDH to diffuse the additional traffic. Also, why is Sixth St. only accessible from the South and not the North? It forces all southbound traffic down Swan St. It makes no sense…

    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 5:20 pm
  • Barney Fife

    Let’s be real here… if they’re doing 60 in a 25 then what is the goal with lowering it to 20? Hoping they’ll do 55? The problem is the same everywhere, non-existant policing. Run random laser traps and give out some massive reckless driving fines and word will get out and they’ll slow down, just like it used to be.

    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 5:28 pm
  • John Prechtel

    We have the same problem with speeders in parts of Avon which are posted at 20MPH. Does anyone have information as to the cost of the speed radar boxes? What are the disadvantages to speed bumps? All input welcome!

    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 5:30 pm
  • Darkseas

    Advocates of speed reductions should keep in mind what any police officer who has conducted a “speed trap” in a residential neighborhood knows. The vast majority of the people being ticketed will be residents of that neighborhood. The inevitable result is an angry backlash against speed reductions and enforcement.

    I routinely go out of my way to drive through a neighborhood in my town that has nice houses and is a pleasant drive. I drive at the speed limit of 25 mph. Aside from the occasional package delivery vehicle, the cars riding my back bumper to encourage me to go faster are those that at some point turn off into a cul-de-sac where their owners likely live.

    Thursday, Dec 15 @ 5:40 pm
  • Grandyguy

    Same problem on Grandy road too.
    Drivers are disrespectful, or distracted. Whatever the case may be.
    If “law enforcement “ would “enforce the laws” you would see a decline in the crazy driving.
    If half of these people are my neighbors, so be it.

    SLOW DOWN & act like you have some sense.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 7:36 am
  • Glenn

    Install speed bumps…problem solved.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 7:45 am
  • Greg

    Generally there is a lot of poor driving everywhere here. Speeders, tailgaters, red light runners and general recklessness. Why is it hard to go 20mph?

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 8:05 am
  • Mike Raphone

    I will echo “Barney Fife”, and his statement: The problem here is lack of enforcement. Even on 158 in KDH you hardly ever see a police cruiser. I saw *one* yesterday with those dopey “ghost graphics”. This is the very same problem we had on 158 in Point Harbor, and Harbinger. This lack of enforcement of the speed limit basically netted us a speed limit reduction to 45MPH on a 4 lane divided highway (this is what they teach the engineers at NC State). So now everyone that was doing 70 in a 55 is now doing 60 in a 45.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 8:18 am
  • WBN

    Barney Fife nailed it. If the current speed limit is 25 and it is visible to all drivers, what makes anybody think lowering it 5 MPH will change the offenders? Police presence is the answer. A sign will not change the driver however law enforcement has good results.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 8:47 am
  • Jackie Harris

    Lowering of the Speed limit will do Nothing if it is not enforced. If the 25 is strongly enforced the problem will solve itself. I have noticed that the majority of the time the speeding occurs at the beginning and end of the work day and school hours. Before anyone suggest Speed Bumps a traffic study should be done to figure the time delay that they will cause for Emergency Response !

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 9:00 am
  • Liz

    It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is if it’s not more vigorously enforced. Example – For a short window of time it’s 25 in the school zone by the First Flight schools. Watch how many actually go 25. I’ve never seen anyone stopped and ticketed.

    Or how many routinely go at least ten miles over the limit on the bypass no matter what the speed limit? How many get tickets?

    Enforce the speed limits. Have a visible police presence. Hand out tickets. Get serious.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 9:38 am
  • Lisa

    Lowering the speed limit is a useless way of the town trying to say they did something. Across the bridge, it is a joke. Check the cell phone usage there-probably 80-90% of people call home to say we are here for vacation-not paying a bit of attention to driving. I am glad the Commissioners voted it down, as it isn’t the solution. Enforcement is.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 10:42 am
  • Kit

    Who seriously expects a reduction of speed limit from 25 to 20 to have any noticeable effect? Currituck lowered the limits from 55 to 45 from the water park to the bridge… anybody seen any effect? No matter what speed limit is imposed, unless it is enforced it is equivalent to whistling in the wind!

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 10:55 am
  • Travis

    What we don’t need is to spend thousand of dollars to “study” the problem. It’s pretty easy to find out where speed limits have been lowered and the effect. This area is not going to break new ground in that research.

    Nags Head lowered their neighborhood speed limits recently. Some friends supported it, some did not. But the supporters, generally, seem to be having a bit of “buyers remorse”. It wouldn’t surprise me if the pressure builds there to move back to 25. As McAvoy said, you are punishing everyone for the transgressions of a few.

    Human nature being what it is, you see one person speeding and all of the sudden “everyone” is speeding. The Voice needs to ask KDH how many accidents happen in the neighborhoods. How many pedestrians have been struck? Unless there is some epidemic of neighborhood fatalities that has somehow escaped notice, I’m guessing there really isn’t a problem.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 11:10 am
  • Ron Davidson

    I live on Bay Drive. I always drive between 25 and 30……no faster. I see, usually in the evenings, many vehicles driving considerably faster than that. Just this afternoon I saw an officer had somebody pulled over right at the KDH–Kitty Hawk town line. THat was a welcome sight. We don’t need a lower speed limit. We need more police enforcing the very reasonable limit.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 4:09 pm
  • KDH back seat reviewer

    I just don’t understand why the mayor would vote against enacting a safety measure. Getting to a place quicker and faster takes precedent over slow safe driving.

    The stupidity to say that is hard to drive at 20mph just shows pure ignorance on how to operate a gas pedal.

    IT IS POLICE PRESENCE AND ISSUING OF TICKETS THAT WILL STOP SPEEDING

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 4:51 pm
  • AndyM

    Speed limits designed to punish “them” diminish respect for the law. Speed limits will be followed when people in the community support them.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 7:54 pm
  • Soundsider

    It take 18 seconds longer to travel 1/2 mile at 20 mph than 25 mph. 18 seconds. Slow down and smell the roses. Leave earlier. I drive 20 on every residential street. Thank you for trying John Windley and Terry Gray. Shame on you other 3.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 9:28 pm
  • Cliff Blakely

    If a KDH police officer would like to park in my driveway on Seminole St with radar, they are welcome. He or she could get a reckless driving situation every 15 minutes.

    Friday, Dec 16 @ 9:31 pm
  • Michael

    As others have pointed out, the people doing 50 in a 25 arent going to be deterred by the sign suddenly saying 20. Thats just common sense. Either they’re going to have to have a few police sitting around radaring people and ticketing, or they could perhaps invest in a few mobile radar/camera systems and have automated ticketing. Move them from site to site until the high speeders get the message.

    Please be reasonable about it, 26 in a 25 shouldnt be a ticket. But obvious violators like 50-60 in a 25 should have there license revoked and the police showing up at the address listed on the license plate.

    Saturday, Dec 17 @ 8:36 am