The speed of traffic in our neighborhoods, where we and our families drive, walk and play, is a recurring topic of discussion, especially over the non-winter months when the roads are clear and neighbors and children are out walking or enjoying some fresh air in the front yard. It is certainly an issue that warrants consideration, and every situation is different in its own way. This post is the second of two on this topic (see blog post on 6/13/14), and will discuss possible courses of action if you feel there is a speeding problem in your neighborhood.
The suggested course of action is to get in touch with the City’s Transportation Operations Engineer (763.494.6364). Please be prepared to discuss specifics of what you have observed, including location where you feel the issue is at its worst. Generally, curves or hills in the road tend to slow traffic, but that is not always the case. Also, try to be realistic about how often you observe high speeds, or if there is a specific time of day that seems to be the “prime time”. One note: if you feel the violator is a specific individual, or if the traffic in question is a result of a single house or business, then the best course of action is to approach them directly to discuss in a non-accusatory manner. That will be, without doubt, the most effective deterrent. If you are uncomfortable doing so or have tried it without success, then a discussion with the Maple Grove police may be in order.
Once the City is alerted to the issue, we will perform a traffic count and speed study using our own personnel and equipment. Data is generally taken from midday Monday to midday Friday, but that can be adjusted if necessary. The City will be happy to share the results with you, and discuss the extent of the problem. Please refer to Part 1 of this blog series to prepare yourself for likely outcomes of the data.
So, let’s assume that we have done our research and we determine there is a speeding problem. What do we do next? Be honest: your first thought was, “Put in a stop sign.” Am I right? Unfortunately, this is almost always the request that accompanies a speeding problem. Let’s start by stating that stop signs are a form of intersection control, similar to a signal or roundabout. They are meant to control turn movements at intersections that have too many turns and through vehicles to operate safely. They are NOT speed control devices. In fact, many studies have shown that they often cause more dangerous driver activity, including higher speeds, than were occurring prior to install. Think about it: if a driver is willing to ignore posted speeds in the first place, are they going to come to a complete stop? They are more likely to slow down on approach to the stop sign to make sure there isn’t approaching traffic from the side (which there won’t be 90% of the time), then jam down the accelerator to quickly get back up to their high speed. Each time they approach the intersection, and don’t see any side street traffic, they curb their speed even less. Now we have created a situation where drivers from the side street have a right to expect that this vehicle will stop, and they don’t. Is the speeding driver in the wrong if an accident occurs? Yes. But the stop sign wasn’t about assigning blame, it was about improving safety, which we haven’t done. In fact, we very likely made it worse.
There are a handful of other, more effective, speed control devices at our disposal. I won’t promise that they will be fully effective, as any type of traffic control or traffic calming always relies on drivers to do their part. Police patrols are effective, but non-sustainable in terms of staffing enough police to monitor all the neighborhoods that have reported speeding problems.
We hope this series has been informative and helpful in terms of clearing up some unknowns about traffic speeds and means to address. The best way to have safe neighborhood streets is to drive the posted speed limit and be on alert for surprises like the opening of car doors or children darting into the street. That approach to driving will always, always be better than signs or police.