CEDAR POINT — It’s been almost a month since the N.C. Department of Transportation acquiesced to the town’s request to lower the speed limit to 35 mph on all of Highway 24 through town, and officials think it’s going well.
“A few people are still flying through here,” Mayor Scott Hatsell said during the town commission’s monthly meeting Tuesday night in town hall. “But I think most people have slowed down. I think it’s made a difference, although it’s going to take some time for some people to adjust.”
The speed limit on the major, five-lane highway had been 45 mph for years, but after commissioners voted in August to rescind a 1989 ordinance that set the limit, NCDOT changed the signs to 35 mph Nov. 4.
The town has no police department, just a county sheriff’s deputy, Kurt Nakamura, who works full-time for the town under a contract with the sheriff’s office.
Mayor Hatsell said the deputy pulled over 27 speeders the first day of the change, giving them warnings, and since then, word has gotten around.
In addition, officials said Tuesday, the town has been getting some enforcement help from the N.C. Highway Patrol.
“We’ve definitely been seeing a decrease (in speeding),” Deputy Nakamura said during his monthly comments to the board. “Some people are still testing the limits, but we have been educating them, and I think most are abiding by the 35 mph limit now.”
The best news, the deputy said, is there’s been only one traffic accident on the highway in the past three weeks, whereas the average before the change was two per week.
“If we can help keep one person from being seriously hurt, that’s great,” Mayor Hatsell responded.
The town had been trying for years to get the speed limit decreased from 45 mph, and succeeded when NCDOT announced the change late last month.
Residents for years have complained it is difficult and dangerous to get onto the highway from side streets and potentially deadly to try to cross it on foot or on a bicycle. A lower speed limit, town officials have said, would reduce the impacts of traffic accidents and potentially create more breaks to allow drivers to get onto the highway.
Town officials now believe most of the motorists who flaunt the new limit are not residents.
Town Administrator David Rief, a longtime property owner in the area, conceded it’s not easy to remember the speed limit drop, but he believes the change is good and is having the desired impact.
Resident Larry Bragg, speaking during public comment Tuesday, agreed.
“I find myself going 45 (mph) once in a while,” he said. “It’s hard to get that out of my mind. But I think it’s a good thing. One thing I’d like see is more of the 35 mph signs.”
Officials said they’d try to get more signs to help motorists remember the change.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.