MOUNT CARMEL — The time for giving warnings has passed.
If you see the flashing bulbs of Mount Carmel’s speed enforcement cameras in your rear-view mirror starting Thursday, you can expect to receive a $75 ticket in the mail.
Mount Carmel’s two enforcement cameras — one for each lane of traffic on Highway 11-W — have been in operation since April 1.
But for the first month the police department was only sending out warning citations for those who got caught.
Although the speed limit is 55 mph, the cameras are set to allow a substantial tolerance above 55. That means if you got a warning in the mail last month — or beginning today, a real citation — you were driving way too fast through Mount Carmel.
As of Wednesday morning, Mount Carmel’s speed enforcement cameras recorded a total of 945 violations. Of those violations only 316 were in the eastbound lanes headed toward Kingsport, while 629 were in the westbound lanes headed toward Church Hill.
For various reasons 108 of those violations were rejected, leaving a total of 837 for the month of warnings. So far 647 warning citations have been mailed out, and the rest still have to be reviewed one more time.
Police Chief Jeff Jackson said Wednesday the number was a lot higher than he expected, especially considering the level of publicity that Mount Carmel’s speed enforcement cameras have received.
There are also signs warning of the cameras on both ends of Mount Carmel’s stretch of Highway 11-W, as well as at every Highway 11-W intersection in town.
When one considers that the latest Tennessee Department of Transportation study recorded between 35,000 and 38,000 vehicles passing through Mount Carmel per day on Highway 11-W, Jackson noted that less than 1,000 photo citations in a month doesn’t seem so high.
“Nearly every violation that’s been caught are all in the upper 60s and low 70s, and a few were higher,” Jackson said. “The majority of people are slowing down, but it amazed me that the number was that high with all the media attention we’ve had and the signs we’ve had up. We still want to do everything that we can to let people know those cameras are there so that they will slow down.
“We’ve just been in the warning phase up until now, and so far the majority of traffic has heeded the message. They’ve changed their driving behavior, and they’ve slowed down. We still have a few who either aren’t paying attention or haven’t noticed the signs and they’re still driving above the tolerance level.”
Jackson said in many cases the same driver will be receiving two or three separate warnings. In fact, one driver in particular will receive five warning citations.
The unexpectedly high number of warning tickets prompted Jackson to buy additional warning signs, as well as new reflective signs for 11-W.
“What I’m hoping is that with the reflective signs and all the warning citations that went out in the mail, we won’t be catching these people again,” Jackson said.
A photo enforcement ticket will not affect a motorist’s driving record or have an impact on their insurance premiums. It’s a “civil penalty” the same as receiving a parking ticket.
Jackson noted that some media outlets have reported that information incorrectly.