Near miss on Garrick Road angers residents
By Lee Ann Sides Garrett
Christy Kinniard looked down the long, straight stretch of Garrick Road as she recently talked about the close call that happened in front of her mother’s house.
“If it wouldn’t have been the driver, somebody could have been killed,” she said.
While putting her 4-year-old son, Kolby, on the school bus one recent morning, Kinniard said she saw a car skidding in her direction.
The car crossed the road in front of the bus and skidded through her mother’s front yard, coming to rest against a telephone pole.
She saw the car coming and ran back up the driveway. It crossed the driveway on the wrong side of the bus about where she had been standing, she said.
Kinniard’s grandfather, John Lee Smith, watches Kolby get on the bus every morning from his front porch.
“It was awful, so close,” he recalled. “I was afraid it would hit Christy. She ran into the trash can trying to get away from him.”
With a busload of children looking on, Kinniard said, she screamed for her mother. Her grandmother, Dolly Smith, and mother, Kathy Smith, both called 911.
“I heard a thump, like it had hit a body,” Kathy Smith said. “That was probably the worst sound I’ve ever heard. People have just got to be aware that school is in ó kids and adults.”
Kinniard said the long, straight portion of the road invites people to speed and try to outrun each other.
“People race down this road,” she said. “Adults do it, too, not just high school kids.”
According to the police report, it was 17-year-old Trevor Barron Hamilton who ran off the road on the right side and lost control that morning. The car crossed left of center, struck a culvert and shrubs and ended up against the telephone pole. The report does not list Hamilton’s speed.
Both Kinniard and John Lee Smith say speeding is a continuous problem and agree something needs to be done. Smith said he’s stopped drivers on the road and asked them to slow down. There is no speed limit sign on Garrick Road, but Kinniard said she would like to see one put up.
Sgt. B.E. Hower of the N.C. Highway Patrol said if a county road has no speed limit sign, the speed limit is 55 mph. In areas such as developments and on curvy roads, drivers should use good judgment, he said. “Long, straight areas of roadway present the opportunity for people to speed because they think they can see so far ahead,” Hower said.
As for racing, Hower said the penalties are stiff. For both prearranged racing and willful speed (spontaneous racing) a driver can have his license revoked. In the case of prearranged racing, the vehicle can be seized and possibly sold.
Hower advises anyone who feels they have a speeding problem to contact the police or highway patrol. He said in county areas, the Highway Patrol will come out and evaluate whether speeding is actually taking place.
“Sometimes what citizens see as speeding may actually be someone going the speed limit,” Hower said.
Once a speeding problem is identified, the Highway Patrol will coordinate with other agencies, such as the Sheriff’s Department, to try and have a presence to stop it.
“If we can keep our kids safe one more day,” said Hower, “we believe we have accomplished something.”
Hower said he has assigned an officer to evaluate Garrick Road and asked him to patrol as he has time.
Kathy Smith said the family was lucky the morning of the wreck.
“God was in our front yard that morning,” Smith said. “And a bunch of angels with him.”