Strategies for Controller Speeders
By Gregory T Federspiel
Complaints about speeding cars frequently come into Town Hall. While we pride ourselves in having a small, close-knit community, many residents are concerned about the speed of vehicles especially on our narrow village streets and on the primary travel routes. Requests are often made for more radar patrols and traffic calming measures including more stop signs, lower speed limits and even speed bumps.
To help manage these requests in a logical and consistent way, the Board of Selectmen recently reviewed and adopted a new policy and process for reviewing requests for traffic calming measures. The new policy, which can be found on the Town’s web site, is designed to be data driven and requires that most neighbors on a street agree on proposed changes before they are implemented. A report of a problem will trigger the collection of traffic volume and speed data. If the data reveals a problem, then an initial set of measures will be taken including more enforcement activity and enhanced pavement markings or signs.
Additional data collection would follow to see if these initial efforts changed behavior. If not, further measures will be evaluated and might include physical changes like raised crosswalks, pedestrian islands, enhanced sidewalks, and landscaping treatments. These types of physical changes will be presented at a neighborhood site meeting for input and guidance. If viewed favorably, the proposed changes can advance to securing funding, final design, and construction.
The new policy is intended to complement the on-going enforcement efforts and reminders to drivers to obey the posted speed limits. Each Manchester Police Officer spends 2 hours of their 8 hour shift doing radar patrol. With 2 officers on each of the three shifts this means a typical day has 12 hours of radar patrol. In addition, each year the Police Department typically receives a small grant to do targeted traffic enforcement (stopping at crosswalks, driving under the influence, and speeding.) Speeding vehicles are stopped and given warnings (which are logged into a state data base – three warnings can lead to your license being suspended for a month) or citations which carry a fine based on how fast over the speed limit you were traveling. Each year hundreds of warnings or citations are issued, the majority to town residents.
The Town has two mobile speed monitoring trailers that flash the speed of each passing vehicle and collect the data for later analysis. We also have five fixed speed monitoring display boards that serve to remind drivers to slow down if they are over the speed limit.
Speed limits on town roads are approved by the Selectmen but the limits must follow state guidelines. Voters approved the local option of densely settled streets having a limit of 25MPH and safety zones a limit of 20MPH. Safety zones are short stretches of road that have particular uses that justify the lower speed limit (senior housing, school route, a park, etc.) Standard state speed limits apply to all other roads. While a community can request a traffic study to try to lower a speed limit from the state standards, often the data that is required to be collected results in the state requiring a higher limit as we are required to set the limit at the 85th percentile speed actually recorded.
Both the Bike and Pedestrian Committee and the Downtown Improvement Committee continue to work on ways to best accommodate all modes of travel, not just the automobile. Improved sidewalks, possible bike lanes and better lighting are just a few of the improvements being advanced.
Creating a community-wide practice of slower driving takes a concerted effort using multiple strategies from road design and layout to strong enforcement. Individuals play an important role. Every time you get in your car you can set the example you want everyone else to follow – safe driving.