Carters Valley Road in Mount Carmel experiences heavy traffic, especially between Independence Avenue and Wolfe Lane. Mount Carmel police are planning to install speed cameras on the road. Photo by Erica Yoon.
MOUNT CARMEL — It’s been nearly three months since the Mount Carmel Police Department’s Highway 11-W photo speed enforcement program began issuing citations, and the department is already making plans to install cameras on Carters Valley Road as well.
Carters Valley Road and 11-W are the only two main thoroughfares between Kingsport and the rest of Hawkins County.
Mount Carmel’s 11-W speed enforcement cameras are averaging about 800 citations per month in their first three months in service, and Assistant Police Chief Mike Campbell said Monday the program is showing results.
He said vehicles traveling through Mount Carmel on 11-W are slowing down. There’s only been one accident on 11-W since cameras were installed, and it didn’t involve injury.
The Mount Carmel section of Carters Valley Road, on the other hand, has had 12 accidents including three fatalities in the past 12 months — two of which were attributed to DUI and one that was attributed to excessive speed.
Since 2000 there have been seven fatal vehicular accidents on the Mount Carmel section of Carters Valley Road.
This week Mount Carmel police are beginning a traffic study program on Carters Valley Road. The purpose is to accumulate traffic count and average speed information to take to Redflex — the company that installed and maintains traffic photo enforcement cameras in Mount Carmel and Kingsport.
The MCPD’s study should take a couple of weeks, and assuming the statistics meet the Redflex standards, the company would next launch its own traffic study of the Carters Valley Road area. The traffic count on 11-W was 35,000 vehicles per day with an average speed around 71 mph.
It took more than two years for the 11-W camera system to be implemented after the program was approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Campbell, who is also a district coordinator with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, said he’s hoping the Carters Valley system can be up and operational much quicker — possibly within a year.
As with 11-W, Carters Valley Road is a state highway and would require state approval before cameras could be installed.
“About 15 percent of the speeding citations we write are on Carters Valley,” Campbell said. “After installing cameras on the four lane, we tried to free up some officers to concentrate on Carters Valley, but we’ve had three fatalities over there within the last year. Speed is a big problem on Carters Valley Road.
“Carters Valley is two lanes, it’s much more narrow and crooked than 11-W, and with all the residences and driveways along the road it’s a very dangerous situation.”
The speed limit on the six-mile stretch of Carters Valley Road inside Mount Carmel is 45 mph. The road was recently repaved, and Campbell said that has increased speeding, which was already a problem when the road surface was rougher.
Campbell said it’s common for officers to write speeding citations on Carters Valley in excess of 80 mph, but they average around 60 mph.
“Carters Valley Road is our main problem area right now for speeding, and we’ve actually got citizens who live on that road asking us to install speed cameras,” Campbell said. “In only three months the cameras have been very effective on 11-W slowing down traffic, and I feel like they would be effective on Carters Valley as well. We’ve only got six miles of highway, but parts of it are extremely dangerous at high rates of speed.
“It’s all residential, people are trying to get in and out of their driveways, their houses are right along the roadway, and that’s where we get our citizen complaints. They’re afraid to get in and out of their driveways because the next person around the curve might be doing 60 or 70 mph.”
Campbell said his goal is to have Redflex in Carters Valley conducting traffic studies by this fall.