Thursday, April 30, 2015

Small daily paper in Western Ky. exposes speeding problem, leads officials to make changes

Proving that journalists can make a difference in the community, an editorial by a rural reporter in Western Kentucky exposed a speeding problem, which led to a police investigation, resulting in officials making changes to curb speeding in downtown Hopkinsville (Best Places map).

The chain of events began when Kentucky New Era opinion editor and columnist Jennifer Brown decided to start taking walks downtown. "I’ve never paid much attention when I’m behind the the wheel—maybe because I’ve been part of the problem—but the arrival of spring does something to the way people drive," Brown writes. "Over and over, I noticed drivers who seemed downright annoyed by the pace of everything around them. Nothing gets the attention of a pedestrian like the blur and noise of a passing car when the driver guns the engine to make up that second that was lost as a pokey driver up ahead observed the speed limit."

"Walkability is high on the list of characteristics distinguishing downtown from the rest of town," Brown writes. "I’m not suggesting speed bumps on Main Street, but downtown would be more enjoyable and safer if more drivers would chill out and slow down. Maybe the police chief has some ideas." 

The Hopkinsville Police Department took note and began clocking speeders downtown, finding that nearly 76 percent of drivers—3,326 out of 4,378—were driving above the posted 25 mph, with the average speed about 30 to 31 mph, Editor Eli Pace reports for the New Era. "As a result, signs will be posted along Main Street to remind motorists of the 25 mph speed limit while HPD will use officers on foot with hand-held radars to clock speeds with a marked vehicle nearby to conduct traffic stops as needed."

The investigation also revealed that a key stoplight remained green in one direction for 90 to 100 seconds and green in the other direction for only about 35 seconds, Pace writes. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has since adjusted the lights to make them more balanced. Police Chief Clayton Sumner told the New Era that he’s already noticing an improved traffic flow. (Read more)

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