By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
Speeders may find their days of traveling fast numbered on Northcrest Drive and Washington Boulevard.
The county plans to review and possibly change speed limits on parts of the two , due to complaints of speeding and numerous accidents.
By conducting an official engineering and traffic study, speed limits on these streets could then be enforced by radar, which could lead to the capture of more speeders, reduce the number of accidents and increase public safety on these roadways.
"It's terrible out here," said Twila Hamera as she walked her dog, Candy, along Washington Boulevard. "I can't ever go across the street."
"Now there's so much traffic it's so much harder to get across the street if you don't have help," she said. "The speed limit is higher than it should be."
Hamera, who lives on Washington Boulevard, said the businesses on the road and the Del Norte County High School contribute to the high amount of traffic both vehicular and pedestrian. And because of the high-speed traffic, she added, she won't cross the street to walk her dog, Candy. She'll just circle the block.
"I just stay on this side because I can't get across," she said. "It's not safe."
On Northcoast Drive, Z Manning notices the traffic too it's her job. Manning is the crossing guard at Pine Grove Elementary School.
"I see so much traffic out here," she said, and not only because of the school. Northcoast Drive is an alternate route for people commuting to Pelican Bay State Prison and for truckers who don't want to use U.S. Hwy. 101.
"The speed limit is kind of high for it being residential," Manning said of Northcrest Drive. "It's 45 mph outside the school zone."
And it is the driving outside of the school zone that worries her.
"You can actually hear some of the drivers kicking it up outside the zone," Manning said.
"When they're (the drivers) out of our zone ... there's some concern for the kids," she said, because there are bus stops along the roads and there is a lack of sidewalks for the children to walk on. "Sometimes they have to walk on the road."
It's the concerns of citizens like Manning and Hamera that spurred the California Highway Patrol into action.
Last week, CHP asked the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors to approve a traffic study that would analyze traffic on both Washington Boulevard and Northcrest Drive.
"The highway patrol felt that there were sufficient complaints from the public that brought their attention to it," County Engineer W. Arthur Reeve said.
Now the county is in charge of collecting traffic data on the speed, volume and types of vehicles that traverse these roadways. After gathering all the data it will be analyzed to determine what should be done with the speed limits.
"Once it's (the data) approved, either the speed limit stays the same or is changed," Reeve said.
Then law enforcement takes over.
"In order to use radar you have to determine what the speed limit should be," CHP Spokesman Don Bloyd said of the county's traffic study.
Currently, the speed limits on Washington Boulevard and Northcrest Drive are prima facie meaning they are preliminary limits set using generalized factors such as whether the roads are in residential or commercial neighborhoods, or if the streets are narrow or wide.
When the scientific study of the roadways is complete, he said there will be a median or accurate speed limit and law enforcement can use radar, which is a more instantaneous way of nabbing speeders.
The use of radar enforcement is more of a mental deterrent than anything, Reeve said.
"What normally happens are the number of accidents go down," he said. "Drivers are more apt to watch their speed when they know radar is being used."
Bloyd agreed, adding, "Anywhere you run radar and people know you're going to run radar, their going to drive accordingly."
If and when the speed limits on Washington Boulevard and Northcrest Drive are set, drivers pulled over by law enforcement will have a conditioning period.
This will be a 30 period to allow people to adjust to the changes, Bloyd said.
"If they're driving over the speed limit, we'll just issue them a warning," he said.
Traffic Collision Stats
Number of accidents followed by number of people injured.
2007: 1, 0
2006: 16, 13
2005: 23, 7
2004: 10, 5
2003: 19, 6
2002: 19, 8
2006: 10, 4
2005: 11, 4
2004: 15, 8
2003: 10, 3
2002: 20, 4
NOTE: 2007 statistics are for Jan. 1 through Feb. 28
SOURCE: California Highway Patrol