WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - We've discovered where you're most likely to get a speeding ticket. Rogersville Road, Hooker Road, and Wood Dale Drive are hardly the busiest roads in town, but they are all on the top five list of places to get a ticket in Wilmington.
The speed limit on these roads is 25 miles an hour, and some drivers say that's just too slow.
For the last three weeks, Wilmington Police have been staked out on Hooker Road, ticketing speeders as part of a new focused speed enforcement effort. During that time, 71 drivers were cited for speeding, with a typical ticket costing them $240. Dozens of other drivers received written warnings.
Years ago, the speed limit on Hooker Road was 45 miles an hour. But after the city annexed the land, they reduced the speed limit to 25.
Kirk Biddle, who lives just around the corner from Hooker Road, got his second speeding ticket while we were riding along with police on Friday. This time – for going 40 in a 25. He says the speed he was driving is safe, and the 25 mile per hour speed limit on that long, straight road is unnaturally slow.
"Most of the neighbors that I know and friends in this area have all gotten tickets, and all of it's between 35 and 45, and it's unfair," Biddle told us after being ticketed.
Police have written about 150 thousand dollars worth of tickets on Hooker and nearby Rogersville Road in 2012 alone.
Knowing that it's largely her neighbors getting the tickets hasn't stopped Hooker Road resident Cindy Simpson from continuing to complain to the city. In the last six months, the city says she's sent almost 100 e-mails to police and city staff complaining about speeders.
"They just don't even slow down, they're not respectful of the people that live here, and the people that are walking or riding on the road," Simpson said.
In response to the complaints, the city has launched a stealth radar system on Hooker Road. They posted an unmarked radar box in the weeks before the enforcement blitz, to measure how fast people were driving, and to determine the peak hours for speeders. They then deployed officers during those hours.
"Probably the first week and a half, I was back to back….getting [speeders] left and right," Wilmington Police Officer James Smith said of how intense the speeding problem was. Officer Smith says he doesn't have anything to do with setting the speed - he just enforces what's posted.
"I understand and respect what they're doing," said Jason Tapp, minutes after getting pulled for going 41 on Hooker Road Friday. "I just think that it's a little unfair for this particular road, and that the speed limit should be higher."
So how do you determine the appropriate speed? One big factor is measuring the speed most people drive on a given roadway - regardless of the posted speed limit. On Hooker Road, traffic engineers say most people are driving at or below 38 miles an hour.
That indicates an appropriate speed limit might be 35 or 40. But traffic officials say they also take into account if a road has a lot of foot and bike traffic.
"If they don't have sidewalks, frequently [pedestrians] are either in the road or on the shoulder," Wilmington Traffic Engineer Don Bennett explained of Hooker Road's 25 mph speed limit. "We have to take those more external factors into account when we are deciding what a safe and reasonable speed limit is for that roadway." He said he would be willing to consider an increased speed limit on Hooker if the city installed a sidewalk.
Finding the right speed limit is a balancing act. Experts say an appropriate speed limit makes it easier for traffic officers, since most drivers are voluntarily moving at the posted speed. Speeders can be easily spotted, safe drivers are not penalized, and police are not asked to enforce unrealistic speed limits.
Here's the list of the top ten locations for traffic citations in Wilmington:
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