By Dave Russell
Barbara and Joe Hamilton have a front row seat to the speeding cars taking the local detour – North River Road, Yellow Bird Branch Road and Savannah Drive – around the now-closed Haywood Road bridge in Dillsboro. The couple lives just inside Sylva town limits on Yellow Bird Branch Road.
The speeding is out of control, they said.
“We are inundated with speeders that are just unreal,” Barbara Hamilton, a Sylva town board member, said at last Thursday’s meeting.
Much of the traffic is big trucks speeding through, she said.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office put a speed limit warning sign near her house.
“But people aren’t paying attention to it,” she said. “Very few are. Some will see it and slow down, but the others are driving insanely on this road.”
Hamiton’s husband, Joe, is a former driver’s license examiner for the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and is a good judge of speeding, she said.
“Joe was on our porch last night and he said someone came through and he knows they were going 80 mph,” she said.
Later Thursday, Joe Hamilton said the driver of that car was turning his ignition on and off to make the car backfire.
“Like kids do, I guess,” Joe Hamilton said. “He’d click it off and on and the exhaust pipe would go ‘Boom!’”
Barbara Hamilton said she’d seen Sylva Police, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the N.C. Highway Patrol working the route.
“One of the town police pulled someone over right out here just the other day,” she said. “They’re really trying, it’s just sometimes hit and miss. Joe and I look for something horrible to happen on this road and we hope it never does.”
A wreck occurred in that area during a rainstorm late Monday afternoon.
SPD is trying to reduce the number of cement and other trucks on the road, Barbara Hamilton said.
“It is a lot better than it was two weeks ago,” Police Chief Chris Hatton said. “When the bridge had just closed, we really got to see the traffic change it brought to that area. We’d been in contact with the N.C. Department of Transportation to get some signage changed and that kind of thing.”
The route is signed now to prohibit trucks and the town’s electronic sign board warns trucks to make a left turn onto Savannah Drive from Yellow Bird Branch Road, he said.
The sheriff’s speed warning trailer was utilized because it is solar and able to work without direct power to it, Hatton said.
“We’ve increased patrols, we’ve done traffic stops out there and a couple of actual checkpoints in that area,” he said. “I’ve got my officers emailing me at the end of their shifts telling me what they have done in that area and that way I can make sure I know what’s happening and what’s not happening and keep it in the front of their minds. It’s a high priority for us.”
Hatton has had conversations with Sheriff Chip Hall and the Highway Patrol about the issue.
“We haven’t achieved our goal yet, but we are well on our way towards it,” Hatton said.