|Wakulla Times Article--April 2010--Traffic Calming Devices|
Traffic Calming Devices
Over the years Wakulla County homeowners have brought complaints about speeding vehicles in their neighborhoods to the sheriff’s office and county commission meetings.
Everyone has a reasonable expectation that they can live safely within their subdivision. But from time-to-time we get calls regarding the careless driver who is speeding along in a heavily residential area.
There is a solution that has grown in popularity over the years, the traffic-calming device. Countries have different names for traffic calming devices. The British call them sleeping policemen while the New Zealanders call them judder bars. Whatever they are called, they have become an effective method for slowing traffic in residential areas.
Traffic calming devices are not a new concept. The New York Times contained an article in 1906 that discussed what was probably the first “speed bumps” in Chatham, N.J. The community wanted to raise crosswalks five inches above the street level and slow vehicles, which were relatively new at the time. Most automobiles of the day didn’t travel at speeds much above 30 miles per hour.
The first traffic-calming project in more recent times was conducted in a Seattle, Washington neighborhood in the 1970s.
Traffic calming is a self-enforcing traffic management method requiring the driver to reduce vehicular speed. The benefits of traffic calming include improved neighborhood livability, enhanced safety, decreased noise and air pollution, less through traffic and prevention of crime.
By reducing speed and traffic volume, the number and severity of traffic accidents are significantly reduced. Vehicles traveling at slower speeds are less likely to hit a pedestrian or cyclist.
A recent study conducted by The American Journal of Public Health found that children living near traffic calming devices were 50 percent less likely to be hit or injured by an automobile in their neighborhood. Children living within a block of the traffic-calming device were even less likely to be struck by a vehicle.
The calming devices were also found to reduce noise levels in most areas and provide a more aesthetically pleasing street.
Neighborhood crime decreased with the installation of traffic calming devices as potential thieves were deterred by the devices. Property owners found that the devices were a benefit to the neighborhood because they increase property values. In areas with lower traffic volume and slower average speeds, streets were safer and homes sold at a premium. Many new developments contain traffic calming devices in the initial street design.
In Milwaukee, Wis., homeowners within subdivisions petitioned their local lawmakers to pay for traffic calming devices through special assessments. The cost of the devices was approximately $3,000.
The traffic calming devices force drivers to slow down enough to be able to react to unexpected situations such as children darting out in the street. The slower speeds give the victim a better chance for survival if there is an accident.