City boosts some speed limits
By Mike Sprague Staff Writer
WHITTIER - City Council members on Tuesday approved increasing speed limits on 17 stretches of streets here, but they didn't like it.
The council was told that if they didn't approve the faster speed limits, the police wouldn't be able to use radar to enforce the law.
Under state law, the city must conduct a speed survey every five years and use the information to set speed limits.
The survey measures how fast
85 percent of drivers are going. Those figures are then used to set a speed limit. Otherwise, any tickets can be challenged and overtured in court.
"It looks like you're having 85 percent of the people tell us what's safe," Councilman Joe Vinatieri said.
"What happens if 85 percent are wrong?" he asked. "The frustration is that it doesn't make any difference. The Legislature has already decided that. I find that very frustrating. In essence our hands are somewhat tied."
The affected streets are main roadways and not residential streets, officials said.
Lt. Wyatt Powell said the 85th percentile was set because studies have shown that those numbers of people drive at safe speed.
"It's the other 10 to 15 percent of the people that contribute to
collisions," Powell said.
Council members were most concerned about the raising the speed limit from 35 mph to 40 mph on Beverly Boulevard from Magnolia to Pickering avenues.
They were particularly concerned about the curve where advisory signs tell drivers to slow down to 25 mph.
As a result, the council directed staff to increase enforcement in that area even as they were raising the speed limit.
"I don't think people understand what is safe," Councilman Bob Henderson said. "Look at Beverly Boulevard. Look at how many people we scrape off of trees and the retaining post."
Powell told the council that if these new limits weren't approved, the police would be limited to two ways of enforcing the law.
Officers could estimate the speed, but that only works if the driver was going much faster than the limit, such as 50 mph in a residential area where the limit was 25 mph, Powell said.
"The second method is by pacing," he said. "We line up besides them, follow them for a period, making sure we're not gaining on them and check our speedometer."
But radar is the most effective, he said.
"Like it or not, the Police Department will be handcuffed when it comes to speed enforcement," he said, referring to what would happen if radar couldn't be used.
The vote was unanimous on 16 of the 17 streets. Vinatieri voted no on raising the speed limit from 25 mph to 30 mph on Beverly Drive from Davidson Drive to Pickering Avenue.
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