Bristol Police Begin Crackdown on Speeders

Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier

Police Officer Donnie Pierce uses a radar gun Friday to clock drivers on Holston Avenue, where the speed limit is 25 mph.

Mac McLean


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By Mac McLean
Reporter / Bristol Herald Courier
Published: June 8, 2009
BRISTOL, Tenn. – After hearing a number of complaints about speeders on Holston Avenue, local police have beefed up their patrols of the popular cut-through – and issued more than a dozen traffic citations in the past six months.
“Any time we get citizen complaints about speeding in any area of the city, we do extra traffic patrols,” said Capt. Matt Austin, who supervises the Bristol Tennessee Police Department’s patrol division.
Holston Avenue is a perfectly straight two-lane road that starts on the Volunteer Parkway near the Bristol Applebee’s. It parallels the Volunteer Parkway and runs into Holston
Drive, a curvy street that reconnects with the parkway beside First Tennessee Bank.
Combined, the two streets form a two-mile shortcut that gives drivers a chance to skip three stoplights on the parkway and shave minutes from their trips. People who live along the route claim their neighborhood is rife with speeders and they are worried for their children’s safety.
“It just seems like zip, zip, zip,” Holston Avenue resident Amy Greene said. She and her husband put a fence in their front yard to keep their 3-year-old daughter from wandering in the street.
Greene’s concerns about the speeders gained new attention May 18 when the Sullivan County Commission unanimously approved a resolution urging city officials to do something about the speeders. The resolution asked them to “lend support” to the neighborhood’s residents and was sponsored by County Commissioner Bart Long of Bristol, who is himself a Holston Avenue resident.
“This is a serious problem,” Long said as he presented the resolution to the Bristol City Council last Tuesday. “It has been for many years. Anderson Elementary is right in that area and we need to get this traffic slowed down before somebody gets hurt.”
On Friday, City Manager Jeff Broughton said he and Long had discussed the Holston Avenue situation before the May county commission meeting. Broughton said he did not know about the speeders before his meeting with Long, but has since assigned his staff to study the problem and come up with ways to correct it.
“Once we understand it better we’ll figure out what we can do,” Broughton said. He also said the city is conducting traffic counts on the road so they’ll know how many vehicles travel the street and how fast.
City police officers are already working on the problem. The Holston Avenue corridor is an “area of concern” for the police department when it comes to traffic enforcement, Austin said.
Other areas of concern include East State Street, Old Jonesboro Road and the Volunteer Parkway. Austin said the department periodically assigns extra officers to patrol those areas at different times of the day.
The extra patrols have yielded some results.
Between Jan. 1 and May 31, police officers issued 14 traffic citations to drivers who were pulled over on Holston Avenue or Holston Drive, Communications Manager Virginia Smelser said.
The tickets include five for speeding, where in each case drivers were traveling at least 15 mph over the speed limit. The group also includes five tickets for running a stop sign and one “financial responsibility” citation that Smelser said was probably given out following an accident.
While those numbers might seem high, Smelser and Austin said they do not paint a full picture of Holston Avenue’s traffic problems.
Smelser said the list includes only drivers who were pulled over on Holston Avenue and Holston Drive. It does not, she said, include drivers who might have been speeding on one of those streets but were pulled over on one of the corridor’s cross streets, such as Vance Drive or Cedar Street.
Austin said police have issued at least another four speeding tickets to drivers on those streets in the past week and those tickets did not show up in the report.
As for dealing with the speeders, he said, the best way to solve the problem is through “education.”
“A lot of it is getting people to know that we are enforcing the speed limit,” Austin said. People will change their behavior, he said, once they realize they will get caught speeding on Holston Avenue.
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