Let’s suppose for a moment you are tooling along on Highway 101, and someone comes on the radio and announces a pop quiz, which you’re always up for.
The first questions is this: What’s the speed limit on the road you’re currently traveling?
We can’t say for certain, but we would be willing to bet a paid day off the job that a very high percentage of drivers could not accurately tell you the posted speed limit.
Here’s the second question in this morning’s pop quiz: How fast are you currently going?
That’s an easy one. You just glance at your car’s speedometer.
Which brings us to question No. 3: Are you driving above the speed limit?
This one has an easy answer, too. You’re probably exceeding the posted speed limit. You won’t lose much of your hard-earned cash betting on that outcome.
And that sequence of questions and answers explains a lot about Buellton’s problem with speeders on local streets, which has generated a number of complaints to city officials. The City Council answered some of those complaints at last week’s meeting, by directing staff to come up with an estimate on the cost of a speeding survey in town, and if the estimate comes back $10,000 or less, just do it.
The speeding problem is worst along Central Avenue, Buellton’s main drag, and may be the result of folks whipping along Highway 101 at 65-70 mph, and simply not adjusting to lower speed limits when they exit onto Buellton’s surface streets, which are nothing like Highway 101.
City officials could just ask the county Sheriff’s Department to ramp up its use of radar detectors, and issue more speeding tickets, but before the county can do that, a survey must demonstrate a true need for such enhanced enforcement.
Even if such research is costly, Buellton officials should get to it. Speeding is a known killer, and there really is no reason for anyone to break posted speed limits on commercial and residential streets.
According to federal data, speeding is a prime factor in about a third of fatal highway crashes, and the percentage of speeding-related crash fatalities has been creeping up year over year.
Over the past few years, speed-related crashes have killed an average of about 13,000 Americans a year. Federal transportation officials reckon speeding-related crashes nick about $41 billion out of the economy every year.
Actually, states that have those ultra-high speed limits on open highways don’t necessarily have more crashes percentage-wise, but the crashes they have are much worse because of those high speeds.
The sad truth is that nearly half the fatal crashes in the U.S. occur at speeds of between 45-50 mph — which seems to be the prevailing speeds of vehicles racing through Buellton on surface streets.
Local streets highlighted during the council meeting were the Avenue of Flags, Central Avenue, McMurray Road and Valley Dairy Road. Anyone who drives those streets is fully aware of the speeding issue.
Council members also discussed what comes next after a survey, if the city asks the county to step up enforcement. County officials are struggling with budget problems, so the manpower to enforce stricter speed enforcement may be lacking.
Which means it really could be up to us, local drivers, to help solve a problem without much hassle. And the solution is fairly obvious — slow down.
That’s especially good advice this time of year when children and adults are distracted by the holiday hustle and bustle. It’s up to drivers to keep them safe.