Waving causes wrecks

Collisions such as this one that occurred last week in front of Dunkin’ Donuts are commonplace; one cause for such wrecks is, ironically, politeness, with people waving other drivers into traffic.

By Beth Lawrence 

When it comes to traffic, there are times when a wave might not be friendly.

Crashes resulting from one driver waving another into oncoming traffic have been a problem in town limits for over two decades, according to police.

“It does happen a lot, but it used to be more of a problem,” said Assistant Police Chief Rick Bryson.

These accidents tend to happen in heavy traffic and areas where there are a number of business entrances clustered together.

Though the N.C. 107 commercial corridor seems to be a bigger problem, the wrecks do happen in other areas around town, Bryson said.

He does believe people are learning to adapt to traffic congestion.

“It comes in spurts now. We might have two or three a week and then we don’t have any,” he said.

Town Manager Page Dowling has noticed problems at Walmart, Cook Out and the area around Bogart’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. 

There is nothing city officials can do to mitigate the problem, according to Dowling.

“I don’t know of any ordinance or policy that can help,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, because I think people are trying to be nice and neighborly, but the person coming across can’t see traffic in the outer lane.”

First Sgt. Scott Smith of N.C. Highway Patrol said there is not as much of a problem with accidents from drivers being waved through in the county, but said that the scenario is not without precedent at highly used intersections or when drivers attempt to cross or turn onto highways.

Smith said that it is the responsibility of every driver to decide whether or not to turn or merge and not leave the decision to someone else.

“When someone waves someone into traffic, that doesn’t alleviate the person being waved in of their duty and due diligence to make sure any movement is done in safety, whether you’re coming across a lane or entering traffic,” Smith said.

Any driver allowing themselves to be motioned through and not checking traffic for themselves could face charges and fines, he said.

Two possible charges are unsafe movement and failure to yield. Each charge carries a $225 fine and three license points.

The waving drivers would only merit a charge if they somehow managed to hit the person they waved through.

On social media, local residents said they see the issue often.

Some believe drivers in the area of Wendy’s and Dunkin’ Donuts need to drive past the business and turn around to get where they don’t cross traffic – or that limiting turn options would help. 

“No left turn out of that area and no left turn into that area,” said Jeff Carpenter.

Carol McCrite cited speed.

“People speed down that hill trying to beat the light! Dump trucks included,” McCrite wrote.

Between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2016, there were 254 traffic accidents on N.C. 107. Most were rear-end collisions.