Sunday, September 24, 2000

Radar test shows speeders common

Many cars going just over limit on residential streets

        Every neighborhood has speeders, right?

        Just try catching 'em.

        This month I went around Greater Cincinnati with a handheld radar device graciously loaned by the Edgewood Police Department.

        I wanted to know how many drivers might one day find themselves in Philip Bridges' shoes. In June, Mr. Bridges struck and killed 10-year-old Stephen Schroder while driving at least 40 mph on a 25 mph street in Fort Thomas, police say. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

        The accident “could have happened to anybody,” says Mr. Bridges' attorney, Robert Carran.

[photo] Nicole Grosser of Thunder Ridge Road in Boone County is concerned about speeding on the road
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        I'm not so sure.

        Over two weeks, I tested speed on five streets in Ohio and five in Northern Kentucky. I visited between 3 and 7 p.m., spending 15 minutes at each location.

        Conclusion: Although some streets are loaded with cut-through traffic, motorists aren't routinely flooring it. They only appear to be doing so because of the trees, parked cars and children nearby.

        Police experience this frustration all the time. They understand people's concerns about speeding, but they also know outrageously fast drivers are tough to catch on residential streets.

        “If you get a red Mustang coming down the street at 31 miles per hour, it looks like they're flying,” says Scott Nealey, a police officer in Fort Mitchell. “Next time people are in their cars, they need to look down and see if they're going six miles over.”

        Of the streets I tested, two had 20 mph limits. One was 30 mph and the rest were 25. I chose the streets because residents complain about them or because they serve as shortcuts between major thoroughfares.

        The fastest speed I recorded was 44 miles per hour. That car — red, of course — was zipping along Bluewing Terrace in Blue Ash, Ohio, a lovely street in a quiet neighborhood. But because Bluewing is a shortcut between Reed Hartman Highway and Cooper Road, it's too dangerous for normal neighborhood activities, resident Carla Anderson says.

        “I do believe what happened in Fort Thomas will eventually happen here in Blue Ash,” she says.

        My statistics offer a bit of reassurance. When I tested Bluewing Terrace, nearly half its traffic was going only 1 to 5 miles over the 25 mph limit. Six cars — 19 percent — were going between 11 and 15 miles over. Then there was that idiot doing 44.

        I found similar results on other streets, including Glen Arbor Drive in Boone County. Glen Arbor is a main route in and out of the Oakbrook subdivision. To control rush-hour traffic, a speed hump was installed and the limit was reduced to 20 mph.

        These measures seemed to have little effect at 5:15 p.m. last Thursday. Cars moved along as if the hump weren't there, but they weren't going extraordinarily fast, either. No one exceeded 35 mph. Eleven cars, or 20 percent of the total, were doing 31 to 35 mph.

        This doesn't mean nobody ever hits 40. It just means such a person is hard to catch.

        New technology may help. The Fort Mitchell police deparment and others, for instance, are excited about a nifty gadget called StealthStat, manufactured by Kustom Signals in Lenexa, Kan. (Phone number: 1-800-458-7866).

        StealthStat consists of a computer and radar device hidden in a nondescript gray box. Discreetly mounted along troubled streets, the box provides detailed reports on speeds and traffic volume over extended periods of time, all without alerting motorists to its presence.

        Police won't bust anybody with the device, but they will know when and where speeding is worst so they can plan effective patrols.

        Meanwhile, residents are doing whatever they can to prevent tragedies such as the one in Fort Thomas. On Thunder Ridge Road in Boone County, Nicole Grosser recently requested a “your speed is ... ” sign to slow down motorists. She's concerned, however, that speeding will resume when it's removed.

        On Mooney Street in Hyde Park, speed humps haven't had much effect on sport utility vehicles, resident Mag Gajus says. So people have resorted to an old-fashioned tool: their lungs.

        “All the parents out on our front porches just yell, "Slow down!',” she says. “That's pretty effective, because we embarrass them a little.”

       Karen Samples is Kentucky columnist for the Enquirer. She can be reached at 578-5584.

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