Red Lights, Roadkill, And Wreckers: A Carolina Curious Transportation Roundup
You’ve been asking about a LOT of transportation issues in our series, Carolina Curious.
Roadkill, cameras, and yes, even turn signals: they are all questions from listeners in the WFDD mailbag.
WFDD reporter Sean Bueter found four answers – and one unsolved mystery – in this Carolina Curious transportation roundup.
Before we get on the road, let’s ride the rails.
Listener Glenn Fulk got in touch to ask about trains. Specifically: when is Winston-Salem getting a light rail system?
Fulk says it would be a good step for the city. And WFDD reporter Paul Garber says local transportation officials would probably agree. But there are a few hitches.
“It’s highly competitive – with other cities vying for that federal money – to do light rail. And we simply just don’t have the population density to compete with other cities for that,” Garber says. “Without the federal money, it’s not going to go anywhere because it’s too expensive a burden for the states to pick up.”
Even if the money appeared today, Garber says the amount of planning it would take to make light rail a reality would put it years down the road.
Red Light Cameras
On to our next stop. This one is from listener Kylie Kavanaugh, who came upon the question at a public meeting about Business 40.
Kavanaugh says she’s seen a lot of people running red lights in Winston-Salem, and she thinks it makes sense to install cameras to catch offenders. But someone told her those cameras are illegal in North Carolina. She wanted to know why.
“I didn’t really understand why it wouldn’t be an effective way to stop people rushing a red light and generate a bit of revenue,” she says.
For the answer, we called up North Carolina Department of Transportation engineer Brad Wall. Turns out, officials there have a boatload of cameras already in place.
“We use those cameras to monitor traffic,” he says. “The cameras we have also tie into our traffic information management system.”
That means you can actually watch the footage in real time on the department’s website.
But the state isn’t in the business of running red light cameras. Instead, it’s up to each city to decide whether it wants to install them, and up to drivers to make good decisions.
Roadkill and Wreckage
What happens, though, when there’s something dangerous in the road? We have two quick questions about that.
Listener Randolph Coker is curious why wrecker trucks don’t have to pick up large debris, like bumpers, from accident sites.
The short answer is: they do!
But transportation official Brad Wall says when debris is left behind for whatever reason, it creates an unsafe situation.
“And that’s one reason why NCDOT has the folks and the trash trucks that patrol on a daily basis to make sure that debris is out there for a minimal period of time,” he says.
But it’s not just bumpers and headlights creating hazards. Listener Lauren Busic had a question that I had too: where does roadkill go?
Turns out, it’s a huge deal for transportation officials.
“On the western side of Guilford County, they run a log of how many deer they pick up in a year. And it’s up in the hundreds. And that’s just half of Guilford County,” Wall says.
And that doesn’t include the other animals that road crews pick up.
The thing is, roadkill is treated like any other debris. It’s dangerous. Wall says NCDOT teams respond as soon as they can, clean up the scene, and ultimately, those hazards end up at the landfill.
Neal Charnoff’s Crusade
Time for one more question. Listener Susan Littrell wanted to know if turn signal usage has gone up since our own Neal Charnoff started his blinker crusade on Morning Edition.
Neal isn’t so sure.
“Based on my own personal, unscientific observation, I’d have to say…that we have not really had an effect,” he says. “But I will continue my campaign in hopes of one day making this world safer for all drivers by others using their turn signals.”
He’s right. We really can’t know for sure.
What we can say: we hope you stay safe out there. And keep submitting your questions to Carolina Curious.