My Turn, Your Turn: Driving in Wilmington

By Gary McNair - bio|email

I've been living here a little over a year and a half.  One of the first commentaries I did was on the wild driving behavior in this area.  The response was overwhelming - and not all of it was kind.

Now that I have the benefit of observing the situation more and I can safely say it hasn't gotten any better, and that is despite a publicized effort by law enforcement to crack down on aggressive drivers.

It seems like every day I still see people making illegal lane changes - sometimes in the middle of intersections.  They dart in and out of traffic just to gain a few feet of advantage.  They tailgate and run stop signs and red lights.

No wonder we have the highest insurance rates in North Carolina, because this behavior causes accidents - and the high number of accidents causes higher insurance rates.

I think bad driving practices would change dramatically if people only thought they were going to get caught.  There just doesn't seem to be any fear of consequences.

I think our law enforcement should do a better job enforcing the existing traffic laws. They need to go on an all out blitz and start writing as many tickets as they can.  We need this place to have a reputation of strict enforcement.  I think that's our only chance of bringing civility to the roadways.

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

Emailed responses from viewers:

You are absolutely right. People just  have no regard for the law or anything else. I've seen a car turn from the inside lane at collage and Oleander  in front of all cars waiting to go straight , and he took off up shipyard.In Brunswick Co. coming  to Wilmington, those big white lines that say"stay in your lane" don't mean squat to lots of people, not to mention the fact the speed linit is 45mp across the bridge. How many do you think slow down for that. The worst thing is, the person who gets a ticket is poor jerk who tries to obey the lawsm but the one time he doesn't, wham! he's had it.  I could go on and on about the way people drive, but what's the point?


I agree with you about the dangerous driving that goes on in Wilmington, but I see the same dangerous driving going on in nearly every place that I go.  I live in a small southeastern town in NC and we also have our share of dangerous drivers.  I feel sure that Wilmington is worse, probably due to it being a College Town and the Beaches being nearby.  I think that part of the problem is that we may not have enough Police or Highway Patrol Troopers.  It seems like everytime that I see a crazy driver, there is never any Law around to pull them.  I emailed the NC Highway Patrol to find out what to do if I see a dangerous driver and they told me to dial Star 69 and tell the Officer that I talk to what I have seen.  Another problem is that people know that if they do get caught, the Legal System does very little in my opinion to change their minds about driving dangerous again.  I used to work for an Attorney and I have seen clients that had lost their drivers license, they would go to Court on another charge, then get right back in their cars and keep on driving, still without a drivers license.  Also there needs to be an EXTREME PENALTY on people that do not have Insurance on their cars!  Believe me, I know what I am talking about.  They will get a ticket for no insurance, then they have to show up in Court with Proof of Insurance and they will usually have to pay Court Costs and maybe a small fine.  That is absolutely outrageous!  Our Court System needs some major adjustments!  Our Legislators need to get off of their Butts and do some work!  I know that this is impossible, but I wish that there was a way to stop all vehicles that cross the State line and check and make sure that they have drivers licenses and have Insurance on their cars before they are allowed to drive in OUR STATE!


I totally agree with your comments on "Driving In Wilmington" Segment this week.  One thing you didn't mention was people breaking speed limits on all major roads in this area.  People are just going whatever speed they desire and there is no law enforcement around to enforce this. They need to enfoce the law all the time not just for one or two weeks of a special crackdown program they have on aggressive driving and speeding a couple of times a year.  DOT might as well take down the speed limit signs along roadside. No wonder there are so many accidents in our city.


I usually agree with your perspectives on issues.  Most recently, your segment on "Driving in Wilmington" was excellent - I hope you can help to get the message out.  I have lived in much larger cities (i.e. Boston, Dallas, Cleveland) with much more complex road systems and Wilmington is positively the worst place I have lived for driving.  I notice most people with their cell phones and coffee in hand, with kids screaming in the background.  I guess Wilmingtonians think they do not have to abide by speed limits, using directional signals, or using proper road etiquette. That was my turn.


Your comments about bad driving in Wilmington is spot on.  The traffic signals and street signs in this town directing drivers are optional.  I've never seen so many people ignore red traffic lights.

Apparently the high insurance rates in New Hanover County is not a deterrence.  Want to really stir up public comment lets talk about making a right turn on red when you have a red arrow or the number of people pulling utility trailers about the tri-county area without proper tags.


I agree totally! I drive the Martin Luther King Parkway daily and have experienced "near accidents" numerous times from drivers exceeding the speed limit and cutting into and out of traffic. Though occasional "sting" operations result in violators being ticketed, there does not seem to be a consistent patrolling of the streets of our city. In all fairness, I am aware that the budget for the police department has been cut, however, I do feel that the budget could be used more wisely by the officers observing the speed limits on routine patrols. By driving at the posted speed limit, the officers would set the speed for the motorist around  the patrol car as well as saving fuel thus  helping to balance the budget.  But let's face it, until the Highway Patrol, City Police and County Sheriff departments become more active in traffic enforcement, the scene is not going to change. Those who speed and engage in reckless driving habits are going to continue to do so and those of us that observe the laws are going to continue being outraged, particularly when we have to pay increased insurance premiums due to someone else's behavior.


Thank You!   I am so happy to see this brought to the attention of  Wilmington residents.  I moved to Wilmington last summer and my husband and I have been amazed almost daily since then.  It seems as though almost everyone here thinks they are the only car on the road.  Nobody has any clue what they are supposed to do at a four way stop.  Headlights when it rains?  Every left turn arrow is followed by at least two cars who go through after the arrow has turned red.  It seems most people don't know that turn signals were ever installed in their vehicle.  The most frustrating is the people who realize they are in the wrong lane.  They just stop in the middle of traffic and wait until they can get to the lane they want to be in, rather than going down the road and turning around.  I avoid driving here as much as possible.


First, let me say that my greatest reservation about returning home after 20 years of living in Raleigh and Tampa Bay was the traffic. Sounds crazy. Two major metros with heavy traffic and aggressive drivers. They can't touch this place.

When I moved home, I moved to Pender county and try to avoid going into Wilmington. Your are spot on when you say that the laws are not enforced. I have repeatedly seen Wilmington police cruiser engaging in the same behavior.

Nothing will happen until the people of this area are angry. Why aren't your cameras at every serious accident? Why aren't your reporters confronting the mayor and the chief of police about this issue?

A couple of other points. You seem to emphasize insurance rates. How about death rates? Secondly, it seems that about 95 percent of us ARE driving responsibly. We are scared to death not too.


You were so right with your turn regarding traffic in town.

The city council needs to double the fines for infractions and the police need to focused more on violators.

Does Wilmington have a noise ordinance? If they do why is it not being enforced?

I think the police should put radar on College Road from Gordon Road to the city line on S College Road at 4

Random locations each day alternating in both south bound and north bound lanes. This should be continuous the 1st full month and then at least every 2 weeks a month thereafter.

The city needs to investigate the use of cameras with automatic ticketing for aggressive drivers.

The courts need to crack down hard on aggressive drivers.

Heavier fines will produce revenue for more modern equipment.


As a suggestion, the city and county could have two special days each month. 1) Courtesy is Contagious day. On this day a media blitz would encourage all drivers to go out of their way to be courteous to all other drivers and  2) Zero Tolerance day.  Both the city and sheriff departments would get it...less tolerant with poor driving. (also with the media blitz).  This could work if the TV and Radio stations ALL got on board.  The results could be easily monitored after a six month trial.  Sponsors could get involved with the officers issuing "courtesy tickets" such as movie passes, donuts, dinner coupons etc. The key is getting the Sheriff and Police Chief enthused and the media cooperating. I believe that Oleander, College and Market St all average at least two major accidents EVERY DAY of the year. We can do better than having the distinction of the worst drivers of the 100 counties in NC.


I usually don't comment on things I hear on T.V. and especially the news. I think that what I hear on T.V. is one sided and subjective. I however will give my own opinion, and it's not going to be a popular one, of why the driving situation is so bad in Wilmington, NC. I was born and raised in Wilmington. When I was about 14 yrs old (in 1975) there was about 53,000 people who lived in the city limits. Since then our population has doubled. Now I know the city has expanded some since then but there is a bigger issue and it has to do with the migration of people to our area from the northern states.

In the larger cities of the northern states people are more aggressive drivers. The cost of living here is much cheaper than it is there and upon retiring alot of them sell their homes and come to our area. They bring their aggressive mentalities with them. I'm not saying that anyone is evil I'm just saying that things are differerent here than in the north. I was in the military for a long time and I have witnessed different cultures around the world and even here in the US. Rudeness is a mindset and a way of life for some people. Yes I believe that there needs to be a crackdown on traffic enforcement in Wilmington.

The traffic situation is one of many reasons that I do not live in Wilmington anymore. I would rather live here in Burgaw, NC that has a much slower pace of life. I don't know an answer for the problem because I don't believe that you can change a mindset. I can only hope that these people (the rude ones) will someday change and become better drivers and citizens.


Oh boy, do I agree with you!  I am from Wilmington and coming back home to live is a driving nightmare.

I have been away for a long time and couldn't wait to return to my Hometown.  While living up North, I thought the people there where bad drivers however, most are much better than drivers down here. Plus, the northerns have to drive in Snow!

So, Please don't blame the transplants for the aggressive driving in Wilmington, it's just being careless.

No matter who you are or where you're from!


The only way it's going to get any better is if people are seriously ticketed, lawyers stop getting people off for drunk or unsafe driving, and courts give harsher sentences.  I also think a barrage of public service messages regarding safe driving practices might help (maybe videos of actual accidents).  Imagine what it would be like if we all just ignored traffic lights, stop signs, etc. . . total chaos!  It's so simple: Obey the laws, signal when turning, keep a safe distance, don't drink and drive, buckle up, and treat other drivers as you would like to be treated.

None of these are difficult!  Duh.


In my opinion there are many people that need to be stopped for violating traffic laws. I do not disagree with you on that part of this segment. But I have been a victim of being stopped by the same officers more than once within a month. There were tickets given for traffic violations that were not serious, also in my opinion and the traffic cameras opinion were false. The cameras proved me inocent, but these officers are pulling people over and writting tickets for minor infractions when there are more wreckless people out there. I am not upset about these tickets, I just feel it was not necissary when there are people speeding and driving wrecklessly, and also running red lights that are clearly red not yellow then red. Police need to focus on what traffic violations are more important to inforce to protect our community, not just because they need to reach a quota or increase there pay. I also feel strongly about this as to loosing friends in car accidents from people speeding and running red lights.


I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the bad driving in Wilmington.  Moving here from Southern California, I expected to find the Southern courtesy that I had heard so much about.  Unfortunately, instead the

NASCAR culture seems to dominate the driving habits.  You are right!

We not only need an all-out blitz by police in ticketing dangerous driving, but I think we also need to see more of the PRESENCE of police.  It's amazing how driving habits improve when one sees cop cars at any hour of the day.  I have a question: do people here understand what turn-signals/blinkers are for?  I see that many will use them when making a right or left turn, but they do NOT use them for changing lanes.


Wilmington has the most proactive police in the state.  I lived near Greensboro and did business all over the state and Wilmington is the only place in the state I have ever gotten a ticket.  Do not encourage people to get tickets, but instead encourage people they are not the only ones on the road.  Selfishness is the reason for the traffic problem and no amount of tickets is going to change that.  I wholeheartedly agree Wilmington drivers are crazy, but don't encourage people to get tickets in such a rocky financial time

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