Harrisburg reduces speed limit, accidents

A reduction in the speed limit along N.C. 49 in Harrisburg has reduced overall accidents by 28 percent and personal injuries by 66 percent, according to numbers maintained by the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office.

The main trouble spot, according the sheriff's department, is a mile-long stretch along N.C. 49 from Millbrook Drive to Z-Max Boulevard, where numerous accidents and two fatalities have occurred in recent years. The speed limit for that area was reduced from 45 miles per hour to 35 in October 2009.

Sgt. Daniel Harless, longtime resident and Harrisburg division patrol supervisor for the sheriff's office, said the reduction was the result of requests from residents and town board members, not the sheriff's office.

From Nov. 1, 2008 to Oct. 31, 2009 there were 25 accidents, said Harless. Nine involved personal injuries; others involved property damage. From Nov. 1, 2009 to Oct. 31, 2010 there were 18 accidents; three involved personal injuries.

Officers have been writing citations for more than a year but still clock drivers going in excess of 55 miles per hour.

"That's just careless and reckless," said Harless. "Our concern is public safety. We're the ones out there that have to stop cars, work the wrecks and it's still pretty dangerous even at 35 miles per hour. We not only work out here but we conduct business out here like everybody else does. Our friends and family drive these roads, so my concern is for their safety and everybody else's."

N.C. 49 through Harrisburg funnels about 35,000 cars per day, according to the N.C. DOT.

"For a town of 6,000 people, that's a lot of traffic," said Harless. "So a 66 percent reduction in injuries in a year's time, that's pretty doggone significant and it's something we can be pretty proud of."

Brad Mobley, 35, regularly travels in and out of Harrisburg using N.C. 49. The six-year resident said he doesn't like the reduced speed limit but understands it was implemented for safety reasons. He said he has seen multiple accidents near the Caldwell Road intersection.

"A lot of times we have big trucks coming through here, and the road is starting to get more traffic near here," he said, pointing toward Caldwell Road while waiting for his car at Auto Bell Carwash.

"I don't agree with the speed-limit change, though. It feels like people are walking. It's slow."

Some residents call it a speed trap used to generate revenue for the county, but residents said they were given ample notice about the change. Harless said money from citations is split between the state and county and is generally used for court costs.

Brad Tyson, 40, has lived in Harrisburg since 1999 and travels the road daily. He said the change hasn't affected him much.

"I'm not sure, really, why they did it," he said while waiting for his car at the car wash. "The transition from 55 to 45 seemed to be producing enough tickets, so I don't know if that had anything to do with the motivation behind it. They've always camped out (near Caldwell Road), but now it seems like they're getting more speeders deeper into town. Everyone kind of jokes they're going to get more speeders, but I think they've really trained the public to pay attention in this area. Because if you drive by and see enough blue lights sitting there on a daily basis, you think, 'I don't want to be that guy.'"