NCDOT’s New Speeding Crackdown: Overhyped?

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It all began with a media advisory.

Issued by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the advisory was sent out earlier this week to let the press know the first week of its second annual “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign would be kicking off March 24, 2016. There’s even going to be an official news conference in Rocky Mount at 11 a.m.

Full disclosure: we did not get a copy of the initial advisory. We received one later after putting in a request.

Here’s how the media reacted to what seemed like a harmless PR announcement:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 6.40.32 PM

Click image to see this article from CBS 6

To be fair, aside from making for great clickbait, the claim isn’t entirely unfounded.

Here’s the part of the advisory that got everyone worked up:

“The “Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine” campaign zeros in on drivers traveling 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. 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.”

Click here for an image of the original advisory.

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The interesting thing about the story above, aside from the fact that it’s from a TV station out of Richmond, Virginia, is that, like almost every other article on the subject, it links back to a piece by Raleigh’s very own ABC 11.

I read the ABC 11 piece and watched the video clip and noticed something: there were no actual sources named for the story, which is unusual. Where had they gotten this from?

One thing to note: media advisories, like the one issued for this are different from press releases in that press releases are written in a “news” format and could essentially be published as-is, whereas the advisories are more of a heads-up.

The press release for this year’s Obey the Sign program won’t even be issued until March 24 at 7 a.m., said Jonathan Bandy, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

In a brief interview with The Record, Bandy said he had no idea why the story had gotten so big.

“It’s an annual speed enforcement campaign; the National Traffic Safety Administration has us do this every year; it’s nothing new.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 6.57.45 PMWe were able to mostly verify Bandy’s claim. The Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine program ran from March 30 to April 5 in 2015; mentions of it are still found on the NCDOT’s website and Twitter account.

In fact; there’s specific data available for how many arrests were made and tickets were issued as part of the 2015 campaign.

Wake County in 2015 had a total of 815 checkpoints and patrols and racked up a whopping 8,461 criminal and traffic violations. There were a total of 1,680 speeding tickets issued.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 7.36.28 PMIn 2014, however, it appears the campaign may have run under the “Click it or Ticket” banner.

Here’s why we’re assuming that: it ran at the same time of the year (end of March), and the available stats from the campaign are formatted exactly the same.

One thing to note: in 2014 under Click it or Ticket, there were a total of 494 checkpoints and patrols in Wake County and a total of 4,692 criminal and traffic violations — 766 of which were for “Safety Belt Violations.” A total of 914 speeding tickets were issued.

In 2015, which had nearly double the amount of patrols and total violations, only 235  were Safety Belt Violations.

Did this mean the new name in 2015 inspired more speeding tickets and less seat belt violations? That’s hard to say. From 2007-2013, the program was apparently called “No Need 2 Speed;” in 2013, Wake County had a total of 4,153 violations, and 1,358 of those were speeding tickets. We are unaware at this time whether there is a state law requiring that the names of these speed enforcement programs need to rhyme.



Bandy emphasized that the DOT was committed to reducing traffic fatalities.

“More people die in traffic-related fatalities due to speeding than any other factor; this program is about high visibility so that people know the posted sign is the speed limit in our eyes.”

I asked Bandy whether the program would specifically be targeting people who go five miles or so over the limit.

Keep in mind: an official with the State Department of Transportation certainly isn’t going to tell me, on or off the record, that it’s somehow OK to violate the speed limit as long as you only do it “a little bit.”

Bandy repeated his point that the posted speed limit is the legally required limit, and emphasized that there is no such thing as a “buffer zone.”

“That was part of the messaging,” Bandy said, adding that they hadn’t given the State Highway Patrol or any other law enforcement agencies specific directives related to which speeders those agencies should choose to ticket over the course of the campaign.

A story published this evening by the Greensboro News & Record appears to back up this claim, as a State Trooper told one of their reporters that the concept of a zero-tolerance policy was “crap.”

Bandy later added that “One of the TV stations said the DOT would be issuing tickets to people going one mile over the speed limit; we don’t even issue tickets of course so I have no idea where that could have come from.”

“It’s the same messaging we’ve always used, I don’t know why this blew up.”

It’s obvious to us, at least, why the story blew up: it sounded like a heavy-handed violation of an implicit social contract. I can’t imagine there’s many people who believed “buffer zones” were an actual, legal protection against speeding tickets, and it should be no surprise that the DOT would deny their existence altogether.

Had NCDOT had actually come out and announced, in conjunction with the State Highway Patrol and a string of local police organizations that the “Obey the Sign” program meant they were going to implementing a strict, “zero-tolerance” policy for speeding, then yes, that would’ve been a much better story. But it’s not the case.

Instead, a few news organizations chose to, perhaps, overemphasize, a certain part of a standard press announcement and the story took on a life of its own.

If you think we’re the ones who got it wrong here, please let us know in the comments or by emailing We’ll publish any valid responses.

Note: The Raleigh Public Record is a non-profit newspaper. Although we have a few sponsors, we rely on donations from readers like you to keep the site running. Any amount you’re able to give would be greatly appreciated!

UPDATE: The NCDOT’s official press release about this campaign has been released. You can read it in its entirety here, but we found this quote from Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry particularly relevant:

“The NC 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. Troopers and local law enforcement officers will continue to enforce the speed limit.”

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Police will not be targeting people who go one-mile over the speed limit

43 thoughts on “NCDOT’s New Speeding Crackdown: Overhyped?

  1. If I am not mistaken Traffic Court in Wake County routinely books over 2000 per session. Now multiply that by the average cost of court (With or without a “Improper Equipment” violation fine,thats a $60.00 bump bringing you close to the $300.00 mark) What did you get ? Not a bad “P & L” Statement huh ? And of course it’s all cash money which certainly help’s that “bottom line” if you will. So what would happen if the populous rose up,and declared Not Guilty,and postponed court dates ?

  2. ABC11 – enough said. Constantly over amplifying mundane stories and reporting without sources. They’ve been doing that for years.

  3. It’s simple. Here is the formula for how local network affiliate TV newsrooms operate:

    All stations constantly monitor what all local competitors report + All stations constantly copy what all local competitors report = Overinflated, overhyped “breaking news” that all stations are responsible for.


    Lazy “journalists” + Lazy “journalistic” practices = Lazy local “journalism”


  4. No Need To Speed
    Obey or Pay
    Click It Or Ticket
    Obey the Sign or Pay the Fine

    How much do they pay these people?

  5. I think if you look at the Facebook post that FOX8 in High Point posted at about 11:15 on Tuesday you’ll get to the gist of why this took off.

    The story referenced back to WTVD’s story (posted at 6am Wednesday morning) but because FOX8 has almost 500K Facebook fans and WTVD only has about 250k, FOX8’s story took on a life of its own, with almost 50k shares and 2000 comments compared to WTVD’s story with just 3000 shares.

    And CBS 6 referenced above is a sister station of FOX8s under Tribune ownership.

  6. d hilderbran: Exactly. “You can’t arrest everyone” is something the government should keep in mind.

    David, I’ll go with your first assumption there 🙂

    Stan: Not enough, clearly!

    Chris: Great info, I hadn’t dug too deeply to see how the story spread, but that makes a lot of sense. Fortunately I was on the highway earlier and no one was going anywhere even close to the speed limit, so it looks like the fear-mongering failed.

  7. Stop everyone going one mph over the limit? To borrow from another meme: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Thank you Mr. Borden for the actual investigation behind the story, you’ve just made me a new regular reader.

  8. “I can’t drive 55”
    this is garbage! As a hypermiler sometimes on downhills I need to go a little faster to conserve fuel for coasting up the next hill. In my area the interstate has steep hills making this campaign the kill shot to my highway mpg. There’s only 2 ways to my house and the limit is either 60 the whole way or 35-45 in the past there was no problem going over by as much as 10, as it stands now I will have to drive as much as 10 UNDER to keep from getting a ticket when I go down a hill. Way to take the fun out of driving RPD! I might as well just take the bus. This is ridiculous

  9. the sad thing about several of these comment sis once again the commenters did not even appear to have read your article, Mr Borden. Thanks for more research, unfortunately the vast majority of the public believes if they read anything on the internet , it must be true.

  10. First off having been radar certified in the past when I was an officer I know that the instruments are tested and have to be within +/- 1 mph. This is stated in court so it is public record. With that said, all officers know that vehicle speed will vary depending on the tires (thus a good reason to get your car speed balanced if you put a different size tire on it) and other factors depending on the vehicle. Other things included. While some officers may do that (I have seen it done) many officers are just good people who know these things and are there to get the ones who definitely break the speed limit not someone who sets their cruise to 55 and it actually happens to be 57. I never trusted the media the whole 21 years I was in LE and don’t now. If you are worried about call the SHP or the local PD where you live and ask them. Don’t trust these media networks to give you the truth. Good article BTW.

  11. It’s not overhyped. My family personally observed FOUR cars stopped by FOUR separate cops in, I kid you not, a one hundred yard stretch of Highway 52 North this afternoon (3/24/16) at about 2pm. I’ve never seen that in my entire life. THAT is a crackdown.

  12. Hmmm. I pretty sure the state must have some sort of agreement with TN, KY, IL, SC, etc. as I am constantly being passed by vehicles from these states like I am sitting still (this is in WNC on I-40). Will be interesting to see how many cars I see pulled in the next few days…….

  13. All about revenue, Not enough tickets written for their liking so squeeze drivers harder for revenue. Thr 10 mph is there for an error factor, tires mismatched, officer moving the gun slighly while shooting, speedometer needing calibrated the reasons are legit

  14. Come on, this can’t be true. N if so then they need 3 cops between every mile marker on highways. So unfair!

  15. Lotty u r absolutely right. Just tonight I saw a cop here in Selma going 40 in a 35. N something else that makes me furious is I see people here in Selma drive at night with no head lights. How do they get away with that? How does citizens arrest go? Cause I need to arrest many people round here.

  16. I was on I 85/40 yesterday around 11am. One ramp had three officer cars shooting radar on the over pass and three on each ramp. There was a helicopter in the air. To me it looked like a marshall law event.

    The part I don’t understand the most is the majority of the officers were out of their jurisdiction. Or have they done away with that too??

  17. This initiative is a gift to NC insurance companies. Speeding over 55 mph carries 3 points which allows insurance companies to increase rates 65% AND, the increase is good for 3 years.

  18. About a year ago NC passed the Slow-Poke law which stated that on a four lane highway, if you are in the left lane going the speed limit, you could be given a ticket if you fail to move over and allow “speeders” to pass. Their own laws encourage people to speed and punishes those who obey the speed laws. I just don’t understand our lawmakers.

  19. Good way to promote tourism during Spring Break time…..

    In Indiana, the State Police went on the news saying they only pull over those that are going faster than traffic is moving, those that are obviously a danger. IF traffic is moving at 80 mph, then they go after the person going 85/90…..
    This type of traffic control they do in NC is actually more dangerous then letting traffic go at it’s own pace. Pull over the idiots that are pushing the limit and actually being dangerous.

    I will be bypassing NC this year on my way to Spring Break, a little out of the way but so be it….I will gladly pay my speeding ticket in another state and my gas and snacks and hotel room, etc….

  20. Honestly this could cause more accidents than if someone were going 10 mph over the speed limit. I drive an hour to and from work everyday as yesterday I tried my hardest to stay right art the speed limit, but I found myself staring more at my speedometer than I did the road. Do you think that was safe? No! You need to be able to worry about keeping with the flow of traffic and not whether you are right at the speed limit. Guess we will all be flooding the court rooms, speeding tickets in hand with valid points as to why they should be thrown out.

  21. If the true goal is to reduce accidents (and not just collect extra revenue), the focus should be on ticketing the left lane pigs that refuse to move over for faster traffic. Too many people think that “Slower Traffic Keep Right” simply doesn’t apply to them. And if our lawmakers REALLY wanted to do something meaningful, they would start revoking the licenses of the pigs thatg refuse to move over, and then speed up when someone tries to go around them. That in itself would improve traffic flow, reduce accidents, and eliminate the underlying reason for a lot of road rage. Wake up and address the real problems instead of sensationalizing the irrelevant trivialities.

  22. Anytime you have a law that 90% of the people break, there is something wrong with the law. Stricter enforcement is not the answer. It is just their spring fundraiser.

  23. All, this is about generating revenue and not “public safety.” If they were interested about public safety, they should tell travelers, try to travel at the speed limit, be vigilant in your auto-mobiles speed.

    They’re enforcing a concept, 1mph over the limit, that they know it is extremely difficult to do. Secondly, they’re going to be saying that this is law, then they, the police should not forget to obey the same law they’re enforcing!

  24. I’m certain that I will see a decrease in drivers doing 80-85 miles an hour on 85 through Durham and I-40 from the 85 cutoff through North Raleigh during rush hour. And let’s not even talk about 540.

    I would prefer that the local agencies do something about controlling the speeds on the major highways that contribute to fatal crashes that back up traffic for hours, than pulling over Aunt Bea for doing 28 in a 25 around town. This initiative is not in law enforcement or the general public best interests.

    Very good article, and a reminder that ABC 11 needs a wakeup call and new employees handling their social media content.

  25. Speed is not the killer DOT is making it out to be. Most fatalities occur at intersections where disregard of traffic controls is the killer.

  26. What is it about obeying laws that is so difficult for so many people? It seems as if the majority like to break every traffic law they can, cheat on wages, prices, and taxes, and them insist that they are good flag waving American citizens. Some how it just doesn’t add up to the supposed conclusion.

  27. One of the posters noted that law officers should ticket those who refuse to move over and let traffic pass. I agree with this. I also think law officers should ticket anyone on an interstate who passes on the right. We see this all the time with some bumper rider darting in and out of traffic and passing on the right, which creates dangerous situations for everyone.

    On the Autobahn in Germany, their is one major rule. You never pass on the right and you will lose your driving privileges if you do so, which can cost up to two thousand dollars to get restored. You are also required to move to the right when a faster car approaches you from behind.

    Although many sections of the Autobahn have no speed limit, they have fewer accidents than on US interstates.

    As far as a crackdown on speed on Easter week, I guess revenues are falling a little short in Raleigh.

  28. If DOT is so worried about our safety, how about putting back the 10 cents worth of glass in the paint on the lines on the road? The current lines (especially the yellow ones) totally disappear on a dark night with just a little rain. When I was a child & the headlights hit those white lines you could see them forever.

  29. Why does everyone assume that because a bunch of idiots pass a law, that citizens have any obligation to obey it? Most laws violate fundamental human rights. If you are not hurting someone or taking their property – against their will – then no government has the right to constrain or limit your actions. THAT is a fundamental human right. it is called FREEDOM! There are NO victimless crimes! Unless you are endangering other traffic or bystanders, speed limits are not acceptable. Speed does not kill. The AutoBan in Germany with no speed limits has fewer deaths per mile than American freeways with speed limits.

  30. I love seeing these postings about the AutoBan being safer than American highways… true, there are fewer fatalities, but the real truth is they are better drivers. As someone who lived in Germany for years, I know. Sure there are a few here and there, but for most Germans, driving is driving. They pay attention and are very courteous – none of this play with the cell phone, play with the radio, be-bop around in the car, etc.

    Law enforcement on the AutoBan is also very serious and well enforced, fines for some infractions are based on a percentage of your income instead of a flat fee. A $75 speeding ticket is one thing for someone making $25 – 30K/year, but a different story for someone making $250K+/year. Make the fine 1 or 2% of their income – now it’s a different story.

  31. If the sign is the law, then ticket the people who constantly drive 5 to 10 miles under the speed limit thereby holding the rest of us drivers hostage behind them for miles and miles. They are just as dangerous or even more so than people doing 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit conditions permitting.

  32. What is referred to as news is not the same news our parents got. Ours is the quality on the National Enquirer! More reality blown out of proportion to create drama. Information is all one sided in order to sell you their point of view. They make a living by speculating about what they think, not necessarily the facts.

    Once upon a time the media was unbiased, giving people the facts. They looked at issues from both sides, not their opinion. And surprise, people got to make up their own minds.

  33. Subject: Safer Highway Speed Limits – Grow Up & Stop Stealing Our Lunch Money.


    I created a petition to The North Carolina State House, The North Carolina State Senate, and Governor Pat McCrory which says:

    “Speed laws are old. Cars are advanced beyond these falsely low speed limits, which cause INATTENTIVE driving. Inattentive driving is the top 5 major causes of accidents. SAFER laws are SMARTER laws; Falsely Low, Old speed limits CAUSE ACCIDENTS. ”

    Will you sign this petition? Click here:


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  35. We pay taxes to employ law enforcement, citations are written, insurance companies are given results. Insurance companies are the beneficiary.

    Nothing wrong with supporting our government with payment of fines, you break the law you pay. Your choice.

    I have a real problem with insurance company being provided informations. This breeds corruption and payoffs at high levels.

  36. 5 mph is about 1/8 inch on your pedal. 10 mph is what you need to safely pass. This law is actually causing accidents. People are driving with their eyes glued to the speedometer instead of looking out the windshield. This is extortion plan and simple. Please publish names of the politicians who voted for this before the elections.