North Carolina troopers nabbed 190 speeders going 86 mph and above during a pre-Memorial Day enforcement crackdown on Interstate 485 in the Charlotte area, according to a Charlotte Observer analysis of State Highway Patrol data.
Of those drivers, 31 were accused of driving at 95 mph or above during the four-day campaign, the data show. The posted speed limit on the I-485 is 70 mph.
Drivers who upped their speeds during the COVID-19 pandemic, when fewer vehicles were on the road, “are getting back out there and have kind of picked up where they left off,” Trooper Ray Pierce told The Charlotte Observer on Friday.
“The majority of our collisions are still due to speed,” he said.
An investigation by The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer in Raleigh found that extreme speeding has soared in North Carolina, most notably since the pandemic began.
But fewer than 5% of drivers clocked at 20 mph and above the posted speed were convicted as originally charged, the investigation found. Another 3% were found guilty on other charges, while others had their charges dismissed.
In last week’s four-day campaign on I-485, 421 total citations were issued by troopers, Huntersville police and Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputies, according to the Highway Patrol data.
The figures include 107 reckless driving citations, 27 for seat belt violations and four citations against drivers for failing to properly buckle up children. Speeding is a form of reckless driving under North Carolina law.
Five troopers in unmarked cars covered all 67 miles of Interstate 485, randomly choosing a different stretch of the highway each day.
Increase in road rage
The effort came as road rage incidents continue to rise in Charlotte, troopers and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.
Troopers who cover highways in Mecklenburg County have seen an increase in aggressive and speeding drivers and road rage incidents in recent months, the Observer previously reported.
The uptick coincides with the traffic increase following the easing of travel and other COVID-19 restrictions, Pierce said.
At an April 21 news conference, CMPD commanders said they’d investigated more than 40 road rage incidents since Jan. 1 and made 10 arrests.
Twenty of the cases escalated into someone pulling out a gun, police said.
From April 20 until May 26, CMPD officers investigated 17 aggravated assaults involving a gun on roads citywide, according to police data. It’s unknown how many of those involved road rage, CMPD Lt. Stephen Fischbach told the Observer.
‘Trying to reduce’ speeding
Pierce said the Highway Patrol will conduct unannounced enforcement campaigns throughout the year on I-485 and elsewhere.
“All we’re trying to do is alleviate it and reduce it as much as possible,” the trooper said of the problem of speeders. “And it’s a problem that will never go away.”