Speeding is often perceived as a significant problem, especially if it occurs along the streets in you neighborhood. It is not unusual for a group of citizens to become concerned about speeding in their neighborhood or downtown, and then to plead to the County Commissioners, Town Council, or the local road agency for more speed limit signs, children at play signs and multi-way stop signs. Posting unreasonable speed limits or installing unwarranted signs may placate constituents, but such actions could also be a disservice to the public. Although it may take more time and effort to properly evaluate each request to determine if the problem is genuine, a recommendation from a qualified staff member or professional should always be sought.
Speed limits are supposed to be posted to inform motorists of the speed which is considered reasonable by a majority of drivers on a particular roadway. Most agencies use what is known as the 85th percentile speed to set speed limits. This means that if actual speeds are measured on a given section of roadway, 85% of the motorists will be driving at or below the 85th percentile speed. That speed is what should be posted as the speed limit. Local authorities may establish or change a speed limit to a "reasonable and safe maximum limit" on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation. However, the Law also states that, in no case, may the speed limit outside an urban district be less than 25 miles per hour.
Speed Identification Program
The initiative began in 1999 and is an educational measure intended to increase motorists' perception of the speed at which they travel on neighborhood streets and to provide residents a positive outlet to show their concerns regarding speeding in their neighborhood. At present, the Department is utilizing traffic counting devices to perform speed monitoring throughout the County, especially in those areas where citizen complaints have been registered with the Department. The collected data helps address potentially unsafe conditions along roadways by determining the prevailing speed of vehicles, the number/percentage of vehicles exceeding specified and/or posted speeds and the peak hour volumes of traffic. This information is forwarded to the County Sheriff Department to assist them in more clearly defining the extent of the problem, location and specific time(s) of occurrence.
Volunteer Speed Compliance (VSC) systems are extremely effective at reducing speeds in Work Zones, School Zones, Neighborhoods, and other elevated-risk areas. Work zones can be monitored and Speed Watch Program Day events can be scheduled following the completion of speed studies where problem areas are identified. The County's VCS system is a mobile weatherized message board with a self-contained radar unit. The variable message display board shows motorists their vehicles traveling speed with 12-inch high digits and provides an added deterrent by setting off radar detectors. The use of the system is a friendly reminder to motorists, increases public safety awareness, improves utilization of Office of the Sheriff resources, increases deputy's presence in the community and enlists the cooperation of motorists to improve safety. No FCC licensing is required.
Neighborhood Speed Watch Program
The Neighborhood Speed Watch Program has not yet been implemented. Under this program citizens are encouraged to become more involved in identifying and addressing speeding problems. Citizens can be trained to use a County-owned (or shared with Leonardtown) radar unit, and are allowed to
measure speeds of vehicles in their neighborhoods. They record tag numbers of speeding vehicles and forward the information to the County Highways Department who obtains the names and addresses of the vehicle owners from the Motor Vehicle Administration. The Department of Public Works would then mail letters to the owners stating that their vehicle was observed speeding, explaining the community's desire for safe streets, and request that they drive in accordance with the posted speed. By becoming involved in the process, citizens can determine the extent of the problem in their neighborhood and become part of the solution.