TROUBLESHOOTERS: Keeping an eye on speeders in Washington

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About 17,000 people live in the city of Washington and officers in the area are working to keep everyone safe 24/7.

Chief Deputy Jeffrey Stevens told Heart of Illinois ABC people have been complaining about speeders on several key streets recently, so officers are on the look out.

“We’re stepping it up everywhere. Several trooper cars have been hit, several have died and it’s not just that. Scott’s Law, cell phones, even the nice weather coming in, it seems like the speeds are getting higher and higher,” said Officer Derek Thomas.

In 2018, Washington officers issued 334 speeding citations.

-38 were on North Main Street

-47 on Boyd Parkway

-186 on Washington Road

1,544 warning tickets were handed out during the same time period.

-730 were on Washington Road

-113 on Boyd Parkway

-272 on North Main Street

Officer Thomas said it’s not uncommon to catch people going 50 mph on Washington Road even though the speed limit is 35 mph.

He added, “Both are going to be significant. Both can have injuries. The property damage to a vehicle sure, but if it’s your loved one of your kid that gets hit…no matter what the speed it’s always pretty devastating.”

While Heart of Illinois ABC was with Officer Thomas, he pulled someone over on Washington Road for going 12 mph over the speed limit.

“Some people think it’s a race track, but it’s also the main artery through town. Anytime we’re going somewhere or trying to get to some place we’re either using this or Boyd or 24…we’re on here more than most other streets,” said Officer Thomas.

Officer Thomas used his radar gun to check for speeders on North Main Street.

When he saw someone going to fast, he turned on his lights and siren, indicating to the driver that he or she needed to pull over.

One thing Heart of Illinois ABC noticed was how Officer Thomas checked multiple times to make sure it was safe for him to get out of his squad car.

He reiterated the importance of Scott’s Law which requires you to move over if you see flashing lights or slow down if you can’t.

“It’s infuriating and it’s a common sense law yet so many people disregard it. It’s kind of weird. I don’t understand why they don’t….I’ve been standing at cars telling people what they did wrong and so forth and people come within inches. Those mirrors will hurt just as much as the front of the car if it hits you so yeah I’ve had a lot of close calls,” said Officer Thomas.

Thomas said cops aren’t on the road to ticket every single driver.

They want to make sure you’re safe and realize what you’re doing wrong.

His advice is to know the speed limit at all times and focus on the road.

Officer Thomas added, “I stopped a lady who was on her cell phone, holding a baked potato, and driving with her knees. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

As far as Washington Road the speed limit changes from 35 mph to 54 mph or vice versa depending on the way you’re traveling.

Since that’s the area where the most tickets are handed out, Heart of Illinois ABC asked Officer Thomas if he thinks people realize the limit changes.

“I think people realize it. It’s a bright white sign with black lettering on it just the same as in any other town. I think a lot of it is distracted driving.”

Heart of Illinois ABC reached out to the Illinois Department of Transportation to ask why the speed changes.

You can read the full response below:

Speed limits are set based on an engineering study that takes into account the 85th percentile speed of traffic, location, roadway cross section, roadway profiles, traffic control, driveway density, adjacent land use, crash rate and any unique factors specific to that section of roadway.

 

  • 85th Percentile Speed – this is the speed that most drivers are comfortable traveling and is determined by collecting speed data of actual vehicles on the section of road being studied
  • Location – is the road in a rural area where drivers expect higher speeds and fewer vehicles or an urban area where drivers expect lower speeds and more traffic?
  • Roadway cross section – the number of lanes, left and right turn lanes, curb-and-gutter adjacent to traffic or flat shoulders, medians between opposing traffic, sidewalks behind the curb, etc.
  • Roadway profiles – are there multiple curves along the stretch of road or hills?
  • Traffic control – spacing and type of traffic control like traffic signals or stop signs
  • Driveway density – number and spacing between driveways
  • Adjacent land use – farm fields, office, large commercial, small commercial, industrial, residential
  • Crash rate – number of crashes along the stretch of roadway relative to the volume of traffic

 

The speed limits on Business US 24 (Washington Road/Peoria Street) have been discussed with the City of Washington staff and the following is consistent with IDOT’s response regarding why it is not a consistent speed throughout.

 

The section of Business US 24 from McClugage Road through Cummings Lane to AutoZone (old Walmart entrance) is a wide open section of roadway with shoulders (eastbound), few driveways and adjacent low density land uses set back from the roadway so drivers expect and are comfortable with driving 45 mph. Reducing the speed limits through this stretch would not reduce the speeds traveled by most drivers. Lowering the speed limit would make the section less safe with some vehicles traveling at 35 mph and others still going 45 mph.

 

The section from AutoZone (old Walmart entrance) to Wilmor Road has curb-and-gutter on both sides of the roadway, more driveways, more dense land use adjacent to the road, and more sideroads with schools and residential neighborhoods nearby, so this section has a lower speed limit of 35 mph consistent with driver expectation.

 

The transition between 35 mph and 45 mph originally made sense with Walmart and traffic signals at that location. However, since Walmart moved and traffic signals are no longer warranted, the reason for the transition is less obvious. The location of the transition has been reconsidered, but since it would only move about one thousand feet to the east it was decided to keep it at the current location to avoid confusing drivers who regularly travel this section of road.

 

 

Jessica Cook

Jessica Cook

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