UNC Highway Safety Research Center launches Iredell County speed-enforcement campaign
Press Release - For immediate use
Feb. 1, 2001 — No. 52
By EMILY SMITH UNC Highway Safety Research Center
CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center will work with Iredell County law enforcement, Emergency Medical Services and the county's district attorney's office on an awareness campaign designed to reduce the number of speeding drivers in Iredell County.
The pilot program, which begins and was announced today (Feb. 1), will test the use of radar cameras in decreasing the incidence of speeding in the county. The multi-month campaign is funded by the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program and will include enforcement personnel from the N.C. State Highway Patrol, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Iredell County Sheriff's Department, and the Statesville, Mooresville and Troutman police departments.
The project will be supported by radio spots, posters and print advertisement encouraging drivers to "Kill your speed, not your neighbor, yourself, someone's child or your best friend."
A recent study by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center found that 48 percent of crashes in rural and mixed-development areas of Iredell County - which make up nearly all of the county - involve a speeding driver.
"The incidence of speed-related crashes in Iredell County is higher than that of North Carolina, where 44 percent of crashes in rural and mixed-development areas involve a speeding driver," said William Hunter, associate director of the UNC center.
"Besides being over-represented in speed crashes, Iredell County has experienced an upward shift in fatalities in these types of crashes," he said. "We also chose to work with Iredell because of the eagerness of law enforcement and city and county officials there to work with us in a campaign to make roads safer."
The enforcement agencies will be using speed-camera equipment provided by Lockheed Martin IMS to photograph license plates of vehicles found exceeding the limit.
"The concept is similar to the red-light-running equipment that has been successfully used in Charlotte," said Thomas Hodgkins, regional marketing manager with the company. "The speed cameras are just sort of a natural step forward in automated enforcement."
Speed cameras are being used effectively in cities in Oregon, Colorado, California and Arizona, Hodgkins said. "Washington, D.C., is getting ready to start one of the more aggressive speed-photography programs in the nation."
Warning letters will be sent to registered owners of the vehicles photographed speeding in Iredell County, to encourage lawful behavior. Drivers participating in focus groups conducted last fall by the UNC center indicated that such warning letters might deter them from speeding.
"Many of the young drivers we spoke with in the focus groups said that if their parents got a letter saying that they had been speeding, then they would be in a lot of trouble," Hunter said. "In focus groups with older drivers, we further posed the question, 'Well, what about your spouse? If they got such a warning letter, would that have an effect on you or your driving?' And the response we got was, 'Well, yeah, it might.' "
Garry W. Frank, district attorney for the 22nd Prosecutorial District, which includes Iredell County, has endorsed the campaign. His office will implement more stringent prosecution standards for drivers found speeding in work zones, repeat-speeding offenders and drivers ticketed for excessive speeding.
"We've had a lot of very serious accidents, fatalities and maiming personal injuries that show that this is a problem," Frank said. "The laws are on the books, and we need to try to reasonably and justly enforce them to see if we can address this problem."
Fourteen of the 39 fatal motor-vehicle crashes that took place in Iredell County in 2000 involved speeding, said Sgt. Robin Chandler of the N.C. State Highway Patrol.
"Nineteen people lost their lives in those 14 crashes," Chandler said. "Probably the worst one we had last year was on I-77 when five members of one family were killed in a work zone. They were riding in a van that was rear-ended by a tractor trailer traveling 68 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour construction zone."
About 1,000 speed-related crashes take place in rural and mixed-development areas of Iredell County each year, according to a recently completed study examining speed-related crashes in rural and mixed-development areas of North Carolina.
Conducted by the UNC center, the study is funded by the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program and involved analysis of 1994-1999 crash data from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.
Study results found that more than 42,500 speed-related crashes take place each year in rural and mixed-development areas of North Carolina, resulting in the deaths of an average of 575 people.
The definitions of "rural" and "mixed development" for this study were based on the locality codes used by law enforcement on crash report forms. The definition of "rural" included areas up to 30 percent developed throughout the state. "Mixed development" was defined as areas 30 percent to 70 percent developed.
Crashes were classified as speed-related if one of the drivers in the crash was noted as exceeding the posted speed limit, exceeding a safe speed or failing to reduce speed to fit the existing conditions. These crashes occur more frequently on curved sections of roadway.
Study results show that 35 percent of the drivers involved in speed-related crashes on rural secondary roads in Iredell County are young male drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 - more than any other demographic group.
Speeding doesn't have to be excessive to result in grave consequences, according to Iredell County EMS director Tracy Jackson.
"We had a bad one recently where a man was speeding and the road was a little slick," Jackson said. "It was a secondary road and he came to a bridge, hit the bridge and flipped over in the creek. The car was upside-down in the creek. They were able to get him out after a prolonged extrication. And just as soon as they got him out, he went into cardiac arrest. They did everything they could for him but he didn't make it."
UNC Highway Safety Research Center contact: Emily Smith, (919) 962-7803
UNC-CH News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415