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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