Neighborhood Traffic Safety
Speeding: A Major Neighborhood Concern
The basic speed limit on all Pierce County local roads is 25 miles per hour. Drivers who exceed this limit concern both residents and officials. Often the biggest offenders are residents of the neighborhood who are familiar with the streets, as well as other drivers seeking alternatives to busy arterials.
Uniformity of Speed
Realistic speed limits help preserve uniformity of speed. Uniformity of speed is valuable because:
- It maintains consistency in traffic gaps for crossing traffic
- It helps pedestrians to better judge the speed of traffic
- It reduces the possibility of conflict between faster and slower drivers
- It makes unreasonable violators more obvious to law enforcement
Unreasonably low posted speed limits interfere with uniformity of speed, which increases the potential for accidents.
The Basic Speed Law
A commitment to establishing realistic speed limits is the foundation of the nationally recognized Basic Speed Law. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 46.61.400) states:
'No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.'
This law places responsibility on drivers to modify their driving behavior according to roadway conditions.
How Specific Speed Limits Are Established
State law allows counties to set their standard speed limit for roads where no speed limit is posted. In Pierce County the limit is 25 miles per hour (MPH). The 25 MPH limit is in effect for all local roads, unless otherwise posted.
Higher speed limits for arterials are determined through individual traffic investigations. Prevailing speed studies, accident history, and roadway conditions are considered in the investigation.
- Are speed humps going to continue to be installed within the county?
Currently, new installations of speed humps and driver feedback signs are on hold due to funding constraints within the County. Revenues to the County for transportation improvements have decreased while needs for new traffic signals, additional roadway capacity, and bridge reconstruction continue. In the meantime, the use of the Neighborhood Speed Watch Program (radar trailer) and Neighborhood Entry signs continue to be available.
- How do we get Children at Play signs installed on our street or in our neighborhood?
Parents often request 'Children at Play' warning signs to urge motorists to drive cautiously. However, traffic studies show that 'Children at Play' warning signs don't reduce vehicle speeds, nor reduce pedestrian accidents. In fact, 'Children at Play' signs can increase the potential for accidents by giving a false sense of protection to children and parents which cannot be guaranteed. For these reasons, national traffic standards, such as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), don't recognize such warning signs and discourage their use. Our department doesn't want to encourage children to play within the roadway, which is intended exclusively for the use of vehicles. Additionally, to maintain consistency we would have to post the signs in so many locations throughout the county that they would cease to command the attention or respect of drivers.
- What are speed humps and how are they related to the Traffic Calming Pilot Program?
Pierce County established a Traffic Calming Pilot Program in 2005, to evaluate the effectiveness of speed humps as a method of traffic calming on local roads. Two neighborhoods were initially selected for installation of temporary speed humps. These speed humps were installed in 2006. In the months following their installation, the overall effectiveness as well as the public's receptiveness was evaluated by way of before and after speed/volume studies and neighborhood surveys. These results were provided to the County Council for further direction. Subsequently, permanent speed humps replaced the temporary humps in these two neighborhoods in 2007. In 2008, two more neighborhoods were selected for the Traffic Calming Pilot Program and were fitted with several speed humps. In addition to the speed humps, the County also installed 12 driver feedback signs on arterial roads as a part of the Pilot Program. The effectiveness of these electronic signs in slowing arterial traffic has been mixed, primarily due to equipment reliability issues.
- What can I do in my neighborhood about speeders?
You can make a difference by:
- Always driving 25 MPH or less in residential areas
- Avoiding using local streets as shortcuts
- Vehicle description
- License number
- Day and time speeding most often occurs
- Location - road and cross road information
- How do we get Neighborhood Entry signs installed?
To help increase driver awareness, and to reinforce a neighborhood's concern that drivers comply with the residential speed limit, 'Neighborhood Entry' signs may be placed at entrances to, and at key locations within, a neighborhood. 'Neighborhood Entry' signs must be approved by the county engineer. Neighborhood groups or individuals are responsible for all costs associated with manufacturing, installing and maintaining the signs. To have the county engineer consider your neighborhood, request the 'Neighborhood Entry' Sign request form.
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