MTYT: Finding a solution to fix Hwy 17

By Gary McNair - bio|email

Anyone who watches these commentaries with any regularity knows I have issues with crazy drivers.  They not only endanger themselves, but they put the rest of us at risk too.

This is no more evident right now than on Highway 17 in Pender County.  Two people died there last month in separate accidents.  If you have been on that road, you know it can be difficult in spots to get on and off because it's usually congested, there are some curves, and people drive fast.

This week, community leaders and state transportation experts will start a conversation that some say is long overdue.  They are putting all ideas on the table in an effort to find ways to fix the problems.

One idea includes a barrier in the median or what's called Michigan turnarounds, so we can safely control the u-turns.  Some people won't like them, but when it comes to saving lives, we need modern solutions.

Regardless of the final plan, changes won't happen overnight.  Until the area is fixed, I strongly advocate stepped up enforcement.

In a two hour span, police officers wrote 33 tickets for reckless drivers last Saturday.  That sends a strong message that crazy and aggressive driving will not be tolerated.  While the discussion continues for "down the road" solutions, an extra police presence should be the short-term driving force.

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

Emailed comments from viewers:

It seems as though many people are missing the main reason for so many collisions on Hwy 17 in Hampstead as well as all over the Cape Fear region.  Quoting directly from the NC DMV Handbook, page 92:  On certain multi-lane highways, a special center lane is reserved exclusively for two-way left-turn movements in both directions.  The two-way left-turn lane must not be used for passing another vehicle or for the purpose of merging into traffic.

Two-way left-turn movements mean making a left-turn from the travel lane, not using the lane as a merging lane while making a left-turn into traffic.  To merge left into traffic may mean waiting longer until both directions are clear.  That is the law.  The arrows inside the center turn lane also show that the only legal turn from that lane is a left from the lane.

I called the NC State Police and Wilmington Police on several occasions to inquire why they don't enforce this law and they do not have an answer.  I have also seen on many occasions, law enforcement officers making the same illegal turns.  I just don't think people understand.

My recommendation to you is to have a daily or weekly spot on the news showing driving laws and proper driving techniques.


I was not able to make it to the meeting last night but I agree with Gary that the law needs to continue to get the reckless drivers, not only on holidays but everyday.  I think its a good idea for the Michigan medians as well.  It may be inconvenient but it will save lives.  I live in Hampstead and I see how bad the traffic is.  When I try to leave Dollar General or Go gas, I have to make a right and turn around just to head left so the median will not bother me.  Safety First!!


Your idea about an increased police presence is "right on". Hampstead needs to develop a "speedtrap" reputation with strict enforcement of speed limits. It would certainly be more effective with city police officers but that brings up another issue.


Aggressive drivers upset you?  They don't bother me at all.  The stupid drivers seem far more of a hazard.  How about the cell phone users?  How about the elderly with slow reflexes that have no idea that there's anyone else on the road?  A number of people I know have been involved in accidents with drunken illegal Hispanic immigrants.  Whoops, sorry, am I profiling?  I understand that NC is the easiest state in which illegals can get a driver's license.

I think you missed the bigger issue.


I just have to say, only slowing down 17 will not get the job done (although it still needs to be done).  I live and work in the Topsail/Hampstead area, and every day have to drive into the chaotic part of Hampstead to run errands.  Most days there are close calls caused by people that feel trying to save 30 seconds in more important than their own life, or mine for that matter. Just today, I was driving northbound, and a car pulls right out across the road in front of me, turning left, and both lanes had to slam on brakes to avoid hitting them (myself included).  A few weeks ago, after the rain, the same thing happened, someone turned left right in front of me, I hit the brakes, and my car spun across 17. Thankfully the angels have been riding with me, and kept me safe, but everyone has not been so fortunate.  How many more people have to be hurt and/or killed before the highway running through our town gets a little safer?!

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