July 27, 2016

NPS conducts two traffic checkpoints at Hatteras Island ramps


In response to numerous incidences of traffic safety violations on the roads and beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, National Park Service rangers and a deputy from the Dare County Sheriff's Office conducted two traffic safety checkpoints at Ramp 49 in Frisco and Ramp 55 in Hatteras village on Saturday, July 23.

The check points were in response to daily reports of a wide range of violations, including improper seat belt use, riding on the exterior of vehicles, lack of child safety seats, open containers, and driving under the influence.

“Some of our off-road vehicle users fail to remember that the rules of the road apply when either pavement or sand are under one’s tires,” said Joseph M. Darling, Hatteras Island District Ranger.

One of the biggest issues noted was the lack of seatbelts or the seating arrangements in the back of pickup trucks.

“If you’re riding on the tailgate with the tailgate up or down, or on coolers or a tool box, when the truck hits the ruts, it’s very easy for the weight to pitch and the person high on the vehicle to be tossed out of the vehicle,” says Darling. “It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can be a very bad event.

“We were also finding that a lot of people don’t wear seatbelts when they’re at the beach, and often there’s an improper number of people for the number of seatbelts,” he adds. “For example, we’ll see nine people piled into a truck that only has six seatbelts.”

The checkpoint occurred in two stages. The first stage was at Ramp 49 from the hours of 1 until 2:15 p.m., and during this timeframe, a total of 75 vehicles passed through the checkpoint, with 60 being checked. Traffic was checked on both sides of the ramp, and visitors were waved through if there was a back-up of five or more vehicles.

One violation notice was issued at Ramp 49 for failure to wear a seat belt.

The second stage of the checkpoint occurred at Ramp 55 and Pole Road from 2:45 until 4 p.m. During this stage, only vehicles leaving the beach were checked unless an egregious violation was observed by vehicles entering the beaches. 

A total of 70 vehicles passed through the Ramp 55 checkpoint, and 62 vehicles were checked during this timeframe.

Numerous violation notices were issued at this second checkpoint, including two possession of marijuana tickets, two possession of drug paraphernalia tickets, one possession of fireworks, two open containers of alcohol, two seat belt violations, one child safety seat violation, and two riding on the exterior of a motor vehicle violations.  One written warning was issued for riding on the exterior of a motor vehicle, and a number of verbal warnings were given for violations related to seat belt use, child safety seats, riding on the exterior of a vehicle, and failure to carry a driver’s license as required. 

Often only one violation notice was issued per vehicle, and subsequent violations were addressed with verbal warnings due to the sheer volume of violations encountered, Darling said, and the limited number of officers on site -- there were a total of eight officers present. The officers also noticed that many vehicles had five to 12 occupants failing to wear seat belts at one time and/or multiple occupants were riding on coolers, tailgates and toolboxes.

Darling noted that during the checkpoints, a number of individuals made positive comments about the traffic safety checkpoint operation and used it as an opportunity to ask questions.

“People were asking us questions because they weren’t sure [of the NC laws] – especially [regarding] riding on the bed of a pickup truck. A lot of people were asking for clarification,” he says.

Based on the volume of violations encountered prior to and during the checkpoints, rangers and officers will be conducting future traffic safety checkpoints this summer and fall to ensure visitor safety, as well as compliance with traffic laws.
The Rules of the Beach Road:

  • On the roads and beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, all occupants of a vehicle need to have a seat belt securely fastened.
  • All children must be restrained in an appropriate child safety seat.
  • Anyone riding in the bed of a pickup truck must be riding on the bed proper, (aka the floor of the pickup bed), and not seated atop coolers, toolboxes or tailgates.  
  • Transporting children under 16 years of age in open bed or open cargo area of a vehicle is prohibited, unless an adult is present in the bed or cargo area of the vehicle and is supervising the child, or the child is secured or restrained by a seat belt.
  • Open containers of alcohol are not allowed in vehicles.
  • All vehicles on the beach must be registered with proper tags and insurance, and all drivers must be licensed.
  • The legal blood alcohol limit in North Carolina is .08.
  • For those with questions on NC seat belt laws reference G.S. 20-135.2A, NC child passenger safety law G.S. 20-137.1, NC children in the back of a pickup truck G.S. 20-135.2B or www.ncdot.org/programs/GHSP/ or www.ncsafekids.org.

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