6/26/22: POLICE SHOULD ENFORCE THE ‘LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY’ SIGNS AT THE END OF ROADS, NOT THE BEGINNING, CITING DRIVERS BACKED UP AT DUCK ROAD INTERSECTIONS.

Northbound traffic backed up on Sea Oats Trail from its intersection with Duck Road. (Photo courtesy of a Southern Shores homeowner.)

Why doesn’t the Town enforce the “Road Closed/Local Traffic Only” signs that are beside the orange, water-filled barricades that block northbound traffic in every intersection of the Hickory Trail/Hillcrest Drive/Sea Oats Trail/Wax Myrtle Trail summer weekend cut-through route?

This is one of the recurring questions that angry residents have: What is the point of putting up signs and barricades and then not enforcing the “Local Traffic Only” regulation?  

We have heard from Town Manager Cliff Ogburn numerous times as to why no enforcement occurs. He stated the reason again last Tuesday at the Town Council’s mid-month workshop meeting. (See The Beacon, 6/24/22 for a report.)

“The police cannot,” Mr. Ogburn said, “ . . . pull someone over or stop someone from going around those ‘local traffic only’ signs.

“They can’t pull someone over for suspicion,” he continued, “of not being a resident or having a right to that street.”

In addressing his officers’ lack of enforcement at the same meeting, Police Chief David Kole said about the barricaded roads: “They’re still public streets, and people have a right to traverse them.”  

It would seem the Chief is not acquainted with N.C. General Statutes sec. 160A-296, which gives municipalities general authority and control over public streets, including the power to close any street temporarily and to “regulate the use” of public streets. (NCGS sec. 160A-296(a)(4) and (5).)

We revisit this area of contentious dispute again because yesterday we learned from Southern Shores homeowners on the scene that a woman walking her dog decided to block a stream of afternoon cut-through vacationers from turning left on to Hickory Trail by standing in the road. She turned herself into a mobile barricade.

While we appreciate this dog walker’s frustration, we do not recommend such protest or citizen enforcement. It is too dangerous.

We also agree with Mr. Ogburn that the police cannot pull motorists over on “suspicion” alone.

It is undeniable, however, that the Town of Southern Shores has legal authority to close and regulate use of its streets. Further, the “Road Closed/Local Traffic Only” signs are expressly sanctioned by the Federal Highway Admin. in its “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” When violated, these “Local Traffic Only” signs can be enforced by local police with a citation, just like any other regulatory street sign.

The issue really is, when can police cite a motorist on the cut-through route with violating a sign that clearly tells him/her to take a different route unless he/she has no other option to reach his/her destination within the restricted area? In other words, when does suspicion become fact?

We submit that any northbound motorist who is in a backup of vehicles stopped at the intersections of Duck Road (N.C. Hwy. 12) with Sea Oats Trail, Eleventh Avenue, Hillcrest Drive, or Hickory Trail has violated one or more “Local Traffic Only” signs to get there and can be cited by a police officer for a traffic infraction. (If a local is among them and has a justifiable reason for being at the intersection, he/she can be quickly identified.)

We don’t need police officers at the entrances to barricaded roads, sometimes responding to tourists whom Chief Kole described sympathetically Tuesday as “upset” and “ticked off,” we need them at the outlets of these roads, issuing citation after citation to cut-through motorists stuck in gridlock in front of our residences. There’s no need to pull any vehicle over.

If such regulatory enforcement were to occur, we guarantee that northbound vacationers’ behavior would change. Few people want to start a vacation by receiving a traffic ticket.

And if they’re “upset” and “ticked off,” the police should tell them to take it up with Duck or Currituck County. We’re just keeping our roads safe.

FORMULATING A TRAFFIC PLAN      

We have been working on formulating a different use of the barricades and “Local Traffic Only” signs along the cut-through route than what the Town Manager is currently doing.

Our plan is based on road closures, so it is a bit complex and would likely require the purchase of more barricades, an expense the Town Council has already approved. Until we have run our plan past some residents along the cut-through route, and received their support, however, we are not prepared to present it.

One aspect of it, however, we will promote now.

There is no reason for the section of Ocean Boulevard, from the Duck Road split to the Hickory Trail/Duck Road intersection, to be used as a “shortcut” around the congestion on Duck Road. Hickory Trail at Duck Road should be closed on summer weekends, as should Periwinkle Road at Duck Road.  

We support continuing to place a “Local Traffic Only” barricade on Ocean Boulevard (around 142 Ocean Blvd.) in the northbound lane and would advocate putting a “No Outlet” or “Detour” sign on Ocean Boulevard just before East Dogwood Trail, so anyone who has been foolish enough to jump off the thoroughfare on to Ocean Boulevard is directed to the East Dogwood Trail/Duck Road intersection.

These road closures and rerouting might cause some backups on Ocean Boulevard initially, but they should dissipate as word gets out that this shortcut is not a shortcut. If they don’t, then we’ll revise our thinking.

We wish everyone a pleasant Sunday.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/26/22

5 thoughts on “6/26/22: POLICE SHOULD ENFORCE THE ‘LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY’ SIGNS AT THE END OF ROADS, NOT THE BEGINNING, CITING DRIVERS BACKED UP AT DUCK ROAD INTERSECTIONS.

  1. Anne- I find it very strange that the police are afraid of offending the
    tourists but have no trouble setting up a traffic stop in the middle of
    the week  basically harassing the local and workers trying to get home
    at night.

    John Ruggiero

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    1. Thanks for your comment, John. If you’re speaking about a checkpoint in Chicahauk last Monday, Town Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal inquired about that at last Tuesday’s meeting. I believe the Chief said it was a training exercise, but I would have to go back to the meeting videotape to get his exact words. Both the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem were surprised by this use of police resources, but neither criticized it. Mr. Neal asked the Chief generally about the use of checkpoints, but he didn’t specifically refer to them as a deterrent to cut-thru traffic.

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  2. council must do something, this will end in tragedy, either fire, ambulance or pedestrian getting hit, the solutions presented here sound reasonable, great article!

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  3. Our Roads are Public Roads. If someone Rents a house year round, they are local. If a person spends good money to rent a house for a week or two, they are local. Putting up barriers causes people to have to turn around and try to find the exit to Duck Road. I live here full time and I had to drive around barriers on the right-of way over grass and gravel to get home sometimes. We are a community and ALL of Southern Shores should be sharing the roads, it’s just the way it is two days a week for about 14 weeks of the year and throw in some “Non-Beach Weather Days”. husband’s truck sideways into another vehicle going East on 5th while my husband was going W on 5th. Police need to be available to take care of traffic accidents and Emergency Vehicle access. Also there has been a sudden influx of crime in SS that requires addressing. They don’t need be stopping vehicles to check to see if they are local. We had a rental vehicle for the last month with Georgia Plates on it. And what about all the “Homeowners” who live out-of-state and come down here to enjoy their secondary home throughout the summer. Let’s get real folks. We knew or now know the traffic patterns etc. We just have to plan accordingly. It’s much easier to cross Duck Road when the traffic is stopped. People will stop for pedestrians. I even stop to let other vehicles who are trying to come on to Duck Road make a turn.

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    1. Dana: I’m not sure why you would have to drive around barriers on the grass or gravel. You are local and can drive in the open lane. People who are renting in Southern Shores are also local, as are non-resident property owners. As for checking vehicles at the Duck Road intersections, the police would check everyone, regardless of their license plates. The point is to keep cut-thru traffic on Rte. 158 and Hwy. 12 and off of residential roads. The public status of the roads does not prevent the town from closing them or regulating their use. That’s state law.

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