Crime & Courts

Annual statewide crackdown on speeders begins Thursday

2007 file – Officer G.T. Gale III of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept. stops a woman after radar indicated she was speeding on Independence Blvd. in Charlotte.
2007 file – Officer G.T. Gale III of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Dept. stops a woman after radar indicated she was speeding on Independence Blvd. in Charlotte. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

The Governor’s Highway Safety Program on Thursday launched the state’s annual crackdown on speeders.

And state officials warned that drivers could be stopped even if they’re just slightly over the posted speed limit.

“Many Americans believe they won’t be ticketed if they drive within a ‘buffer zone’ above the posted speed limit,” the N.C. Department of Transportation wrote in a media advisory Monday. “Law enforcement will be targeting and ticketing speeding drivers at all times. When it comes to speeding: Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine – the posted speed limit IS THE LAW.”

State officials later clarified those remarks to say troopers would not be ticketing drivers just because they exceed the speed limit by a mile or two.

“North Carolina law enforcement remains committed to keeping our highway and roads safe,” N.C. Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry said in an updated news release. “The N.C. State Highway Patrol does not intend to change its tactics when it comes to enforcing the speed limit. Our troopers still have reasonable discretion when it comes to enforcing our traffic laws.

“Earlier reports that we would begin ticketing drivers going one or two miles over the speed limit were based on a misinterpretation of the initiative,” Perry said. “Troopers and local law enforcement officers will continue to enforce the speed limit.”

The speed enforcement blitz will continue through April 3.

“Speeding translates to death on our roadways,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “It greatly reduces a driver’s ability to steer safely around another vehicle, a hazardous object or an unexpected curve.”

In 2015, speeding contributed to 23 percent of all fatal crashes in the state, and 322 people were killed in such crashes, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Twenty-three deaths occurred during last year’s “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign, including five speed-related deaths.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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