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What Should Cities Do If 90% Of Drivers Exceed The Speed Limit?

Posted on September 15th, 2009 in , , | 34 Comments

What Should Cities Do If 90% Of Drivers Exceed The Speed Limit?
According to an article on Chattanoogan.com, a recent traffic study performed on Signal Mountain, Tennessee’s roads showed that more than 90% of drivers exceeded the posted speed limit.

Can you guess what the city’s response was to this fact?

If you guessed “let’s install speed cameras and ticket everybody,” then you’re absolutely right:

Signal Mountain Police Chief Boyd Veal, who presented the report to the council, said he believes the town should consider using traffic cameras mounted on trucks to catch speeders, as Chattanooga and Red Bank already do.

This is a common way that the cameras have spread across states in the past. If a city hears that another city nearby is making a bunch of money after installing cameras, you can bet that cameras are going to be first on their list when a “speeding problem” shows up.

Not everyone is on board though:

“If 95 percent of the town is speeding, then the speed limits are too low,” argued Noah Long, a frequent critic of council actions. “Studies show that most people drive at speeds consistent with road conditions . . . Now there are always fools. There are always kids . . . But I’m absolutely, totally against cameras.”

This is exactly right. When over 90% of drivers are breaking the speed limit, the problem lies with the speed limit itself. Ninety percent of the people driving through Signal Mountain don’t magically transform into dangerous drivers.

As is often the case when there is outcry over a city speed limit, the heart of the problem lies with the disconnect in priorities between the people living near the road and the people who drive on that road:

Mr. Long, the retired engineer, took particular aim at an earlier town council action setting the speed limit on Taft Highway – the main road through town – at 35 mph.

Low speed limits make sense in residential neighborhoods where children play and adults walk along the streets, he said. But Taft Highway is a four-lane “collector . . . major arterial . . . road.”

Unfortunately for motorists, the people living near a road are often able to dictate lower speed limits because they have more influence over local decision makers.

Motorists can help counteract this by starting a dialogue with local politicians and appearing at city council meetings to make sure that the rights of drivers aren’t overlooked.


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34 Responses to “What Should Cities Do If 90% Of Drivers Exceed The Speed Limit?”

  1. Phil Mckrackin says:

    Compliance can fix most traffic problems. But we can’t have people driving 35 in a posted 35mph zone now that would be stupid. Part of the problem is the speed limit being underposted the rest of the problem lies with the motorists who fail to obey simple traffic laws. I have no sympathy for the idiot motorist who knows that the speed limit is 35mph who then drives 45mph and recieves a citation. when a town or city get fed up they resort to ticket cameras so who do you really have to blame here. If the motorists paid attention to the signs and complied with them they wouldn’t be fighting against a speed camera now. How hard is it to readt the signs and drive at or under the maximum allowed speed? Now before you go off on your Narcassistic NMA rant about me knowing nothing about traffic let me tell you that I have read parker 1992, parker 1997, several other parker reports and a host of other studies about travel speeds, speed limits, the effects of raising and lowering speed limits, the effects of enforcement and the 85th percentile speed. I am for correcting speed limits to proper levels. My opinion is slightly different than some traffic engineers in that I don’t believe the 85th is the point in the speed distribution to use as a sole end all indicator of what the speed limit should be. If you are true to form with previous NMA members I have discussed these issues with you will have a skewed understanding of what parker says in his 1992 report. I believe these skewed understandings are a result of NMA propaganda and misinformation. The point that I would use as a starting point of where a speed limit should be set would be the top of the 10mph pace speed. I believe that # of intersections, driveways and roadside developement all need to be considered and that Pedestrian traffic and bicycle traffic play a role in the proper setting of a limit. I also am an advocate of putting the responsibility for the motorists choice of speed on the motorists shoulders. It seems that the NMA likes to hold motorists blameless for the poor choices that they make while driving. It is always the government’s fault that the driver chose to drive at a speed faster than the government said was allowed. While I do support correct limits posted at the top of the pace I also support stricter tolerances and more vigorous enforcement of those limits. If the speed limit being raised to the top of pace or 85th percentile is what the NMA claims it is “setting the speed limit to a point to match the speed distribution” there would be no need for a grace (like that which we typically have now) above and beyond that limit. If the NMA is correct in it’s teachings then the number on the sign would indicate the line between lawful and unlawful, any speed at or below the number on the sign is lawful and any speed above the number on the sign is unlawful and may result in a citation.

    Speaking of graces that 35mph stretch of Taft highway, how fast would one need to go before they were cited for speeding? I am sure that it was at least 10mph. so the city got tired of writing 45mph citations in a 35mph zone. I would be intereted to see the engineering study including the 10mph pace design speed and test run speed. I also feel that because of the type of roadway that Bicycle traffic should be part of the speed survey. If Bicycle traffic was part of the speed survey the residents could see that the bicycle traffic is being considered and the bicycle traffic is likely not to alter the final speed even though it would appear to to the residents.

    Speeding is a behavioral problem not an engineering problem. People will drive as fast as you let them drive. Then they will expect that you give them a grace above and beyond what you are allowing them to drive. This is a behavioral problem. Although engineering can help with the solution it isn’t the sole answer. If you simply raise the speed limit and do nothing else you are setting up the speed limit to fail again. You need to correct the speed limit to the top of pace and then modify the behaviors of all of those who make the conscious choice to exceed that corrected limit with enforcement, no grace and vigorous enforcement sends the message that the number on the sign represents the maximum safe speed allowed and with strict and vigorous enforcement the drivers will soon percieve this message as truthful and valid.

    Now maybe you can answer me a question John G? Why is it that we measure safety by the number of casualties each year but when the NMA pushes for higher limits citing safety as the reason they use the simple crash curve and not the casualty crash curve. It seems to make sense that if you are measuring safety by casualty rates then you should use the science that provides you with the risk of being a casualty in a crash. What are your thoughts on that?

  2. John G says:

    Randy go read some traffic and speed zoning manuals. Nobody cares about your personal feelings about how fast you think everyone should drive. I don’t think you are stupid, but just intellectually lazy. Obviously everyone can’t be an expert on everything, but I would think someone who is so passionate about something would take the time to do more research. I only say this because your comments are almost always inconsistent with established practices that have been developed over decades by a consensus of traffic engineers, infinitely more qualified than you. Take a trip to the library with an open mind, it might straighten you out.

    • Randy says:

      John G you have no idea what you are talking about. Things that would limit the speed on this road are;
      1) Parking right next to the roadway
      2) Hundreds of trees planted within 4 feet of the road and some hanging over the center fo the road two lanes of full coverage.
      3) dozens of driveways that imediately access the road
      4) mailboxes that when the mailman stops takes up one full lane
      5) Bends in the road
      6) About one stoplight in the whole section

      It goes on and on John but of course you like to think a road like this follows traffic engineers guidelines for a high speed road. You do not have a clue. All of this to save less than 30 seconds of ones time to speed through a lower speed designed road.

    • Randy says:

      I forgot to ask John G if you were too lazy to go and look at the videos of the road in this article?

  3. Randy says:

    This is the link of the road for the people that have not used google maps. Go up and down the road using the arrows and see that the speed limit of 35 is plenty fast enough and maybe a little too much in places.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=782+Ridgeway+Ave,+Signal+Mountain,+TN&sll=35.12384,-85.339694&sspn=0.00681,0.013433&ie=UTF8&ll=35.124226,-85.338879&spn=0.00681,0.013433&z=16&iwloc=A&layer=c&cbll=35.122226,-85.343174&panoid=XuNHr9rORDGhaoMRQBhtrQ&cbp=12,52.95,,0,37.35

    • Phil Mckrackin says:

      Following the roadway with that program one could see the numerous places for traffic to enter the roadway from and I think Jim Walker should use the Michigan criteria of intersections and driveways per 1/2 mile? and tell us how that would post the stretch.

  4. Jim Walker says:

    This argument plays out all across the USA. The only correct solution IF SAFETY IS THE REAL GOAL is to set proper 85th percentile speed posted limits on main roads and reallocate our scarce enforcement resources to focus on driving behaviors that actually cause safety problems. Those would include high-BAC, tailgating, poor passing, poor merging, not staying right except to pass, defective equipment, serious distractions like texting, etc.

    Regards,

    Jim Walker

    • Randy says:

      Jim Walker, the only solution to this problem if the 85 percentile is over 35 is to slow down the 85 percentile because many places along that road could justify 25 to 30 mph speeds.

    • Randy says:

      James besides the road not being designed for 35 mph or higher there are no stop lights. It makes it a lot more difficult to enter or cross the highway the faster that cars are traveling. There are also hundreds of trees close to the highway cutting down on longer range visibility. Plain and simple this road was probably built a hundred years ago and was only two lanes driving right through main street. You and others here say areas like this only want to ticket cars for the income but it is simple. This road is not designed for higher speeds no matter how fast people like to drive through it. Do not ever post on something like this again when facts are present and in this case video and you do not bother looking at it.

  5. Randall says:

    well i just looked at the google map, I see why it’s a 35mph road. I also see why so many people speed on it. It’s a main road of course. it could def be bumped to 40 mph in my personal opinion.

    • Randy says:

      Randall you do not know what you are talking about. There is parking within 5 feet of the roadway. If you say the limit should be 40 that is saying it is ok to do almost 45 before getting a ticket. I should have known you would say a higher speed is ok though. You are the one that says it is ok to drive fast in a school zone.

    • Randall says:

      Randy i live near a road that is very similar and I’m sure has much more traffic than this one and it is 40 mph. Funny story I never see anyone speed on the road because you cant. many times you can get caught behind someone doing 35. It’s very congested, but not dangerous. Parking lots and bussinesses up and down it, houses on it too.

      YOU don’t know what you are talking about. here I’ll tell you the road.

      Mountain Rd. Pasadena, MD 21122. 40 mph I’m sure you would disagree with that speed. But I drive on it every day doing deliveries. Still very safe and no one doing more than 45 if you can go 45. many Businesses and homes up and down it.

    • Randy says:

      Ok idiot Randall. What address? The road that came up for me was nothing like it unless it was miles from where I was looking. There were stop lights and no houses close or individual driveways and no parking a few feet from the road. The road may be similar but if the speed limit is 40 on your road it should be 25 on the road in the article.

    • Randy says:

      Randall go to this location and street view on google maps. Tell me where you can see that on your road?

      782 Ridgeway Ave, Signal Mountain, TN

  6. Randy says:

    Has anyone else went on google maps and looked at the roadway video? This is a 4 lane road for sure. It is by no means limited access though. There is parking right along the roadway when it goes past businesses and the rest of the way it goes right through a residential area with driveways entering directly onto the road and houses within 50 feet or so of the roadway .

    You guys are idiots to think it should be 40 mph or over. I would like to hear any reasons that it is safe to be driving faster in that area. Look at the videos.

    Anywhere that I have seen driving conditions similar to that the speed limit was 30 mph.

  7. Geo. McCalip says:

    Were any federal funds involved in the construction or maintenance of any of the roads involved? If so, someone needs to bring a suit in federal court to deny Tennessee their federal highway funds until they are in compliance with the MUTCD.

    Traffic ticket revenue may be low lying fruit, but it would be stupid to lose federal highway funds for it.

    • Randy says:

      Geo. McCalip have you driven through the area or seen any pictures of it? If not you have no idea what you are talking about. They should remove road funds from the city if they are allowing anyone to be driving over 35 mph in that area.

  8. Randy says:

    Thanks Randy2. That was a good video of George trying to make his 1 G turn.

    As for this article, what is the definition of over the speed limit? Is it 66 mph in a 65 mph zone or 36 mph in a 35 mph zone where the cameras would not be triggered anyway? Another idiotic very biased article.

    • James says:

      He shoulda bought a viper.

      If you even read the article, you’d know even the school busses are doing 45. Besides, if it’s such a biased cite, why do you post here?

    • Randy says:

      James if someone does not tell the truth you idiots can promote lies without any resistance.

      James if you had read the article you would have read:
      “During her walks, she said, she often sees people traveling 40 mph through her neighborhood, That’s hazardous, she said, particularly since many families with young children are in that area. ”
      But saving a few seconds of your time is worth more than injuring any kids or killing them.

    • james says:

      Ys. Bcuz SPEED is a toxic that leeches into the heir. It snakes threw the grass, and kulls chillen.

    • Randy says:

      Yes James, as you say, kids deserve the death penalty if they make an error in judgement while you should be free to break any laws you care to.

    • james says:

      Breaking a law is not inherently dangerous, just like following laws is not inherently safe.

      I never said I endanger others by the way I drive, only that I do not treat the laws as scripture.

    • Randy says:

      James, what is the stopping distance difference between 45 mph and 30 mph? Things like speeding and running a red light can be done very safely a lot of the time but it increases your chances of a major accident or killing someone many times.

    • James says:

      I never expected to say this, but I totally agree.

  9. randy says:

    Good first steps! Now all they need is to implement jail time based on speed camera results, our children will be much safer.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhVDnFLDdTs

    Everyone knows things like that couldn’t happen if we had more speed cameras.




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