Hilltown Township Police Department continues to keep a close eye on speeding within the township, especially in light of two recent excessive speeds clocked in residential areas.
Hilltown Police Chief Christopher Engelhart reported to the township Board of Supervisors in April that police clocked one driver going 68 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone on Orchard Road, and in March clocked a driver going nearly 80 miles per hour on Blue School Road. The driver on Blue School Road was a 16-year-old new driver who had already had one prior speeding offense, and would be losing his license for a period of time, Engelhart told supervisors.
"I think it's a continual problem in general," said Engelhart of speeding in the township. "Just recently, the couple fairly high speeds that we've gotten on what are basically residential roads are just a little out of the norm."
While speeding is an ongoing problem in the township, Engelhart said he tries to report to supervisors on those offenses that are unusually high, especially in a residential area like Orchard Road.
"Sometimes they surprise you," said Engelhart. "I would not have expected in that area to get that type of a speed."
The police department tries to do speed details at least once a week, which entails an officer going out to clock speeds in a particular area. In some cases, the department decides those areas based on data they've collected, but in other cases it is the result of resident complaints in a certain area, Engelhart said.
Overall, the police work to monitor speed on a constant basis throughout the township. While the 309 corridor is an area where the department consistently finds high speeds, Engelhart said that police do not concentrate on it regularly and work to get into residential and other standard roadways in the township.
"We try to spread it around and get to as many roads as we can," said Engelhart.
One way the department can gather information on speeding issues in certain areas is by placing "speed boards" on a certain road. The speed board will clock drivers as they pass and show the drivers just how fast they are traveling. While the visual notification alone serves to curb speeding, the board also gathers data for police on how many people were traveling at certain speeds and breaks it down by time of day. This way police can figure out areas where excessive speeds are occurring and try to enforce them in the future at the times when the speed board clocked the most offenses.
In some cases, information gathered during speed details is used by police to determine whether or not a speed limit might need to be reduced. The department has to follow criteria from the state when looking into speed reductions, which include the geographical features of a road including hills or curves.
"If it's unposted, it's automatically 55 miles per hour," said Engelhart. "If it might be more appropriate for the road to be 45 miles per hour, we will see if the board is interested in going that route."
On state roads, however, it is up to the state to make the determination on speed reduction, Engelhart said.
Police in neighboring areas say they're not seeing abnormal speeds, but that the sheer size and location of Hilltown make the situation less comparable.
"We're not really seeing more than normal," said Sgt. Mark Ofner, officer-in-charge for Bedminster Police Department. "But we're not getting a high call volume for accidents due to speeding, whereas Hilltown is."
While Ofner also noted that Bedminster is more rural than Hilltown, Dublin Police Chief Brian Lehman said the more populated nature of Dublin Borough also leads to less difficulty with speeding.
"We don't have nearly the amount of roads Hilltown does," said Lehman.
The largest problem in that borough is speeding along the 313 corridor after evening rush hour when there is less traffic, Lehman said, noting many motorists ignore the 35 mile-per-hour speed limit on the borough's South Main Street.
"What helps here is it's a smaller area," said Lehman. "So when officers are sitting out on the roadway, we tend to be visible."
Just having police out clocking speeds does result in some reduction of speeding overall, Lehman said.
Hilltown Township did recently reduce speed limits from 55 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour on Hayhouse Road and Cherry Drive, both roads that have significant curves. Additionally, to address traffic issues received from residents and other township officials, the township has revived its Traffic Safety Advisory Committee to address ways to improve the safety of various roads and intersections throughout the township. Rich Manfredi, chairman of the township supervisors, has said he hopes to hold a public forum in the coming months to welcome residents to give input on traffic safety issues within the township.