Raise the Speed Limit to 35 mph!

by Duke Ganote

On February 3. 1992, the speed limit on a local street increased from 25 mph to 35 mph. How did it happen?

A while back, my brother-in-law complained to me about getting a speeding ticket on Dayton Drive in the city of Fairborn, Greene County, Ohio. Some months before, he'd been clocked doing about 40 mph on the 25 mph posted road. He paid his fine, but was still very annoyed. I was familiar with the road and understood his annoyance.

I began to look at Ohio's speed laws for local roads. A 35 mph limit is specified if three conditions are met: (l) The road is inside a city (2) it is at least one mile long, and (3) motorists traveling the road are not required to "stop" or "yield' by signs. Cities can raise or lower the 35 mph limit, but they must follow certain procedures.

I thought about Dayton Drive. I drove the road: 1.2 miles long by my odometer. Only traffic signals, not "stops" or "yields', faced me as I drove its length. A local map showed Dayton Drive was entirely inside city limits. All conditions were met for a 35 mph limit. In addition, it was fairly flat, and one-and-a-half to two lanes wide in each direction.

Late November, 1991, I called up the City Engineer and introduced myself as a local citizen. I use Dayton Drive to visit my sister and brother-in-law, I explained, I told him I'd been reading the Ohio Revised Code (Sections 4511.21 (B)(3) and 4511.65) and it seemed to me a 35 mph limit was both the lawful limit and a more appropriate limit. He said he'd investigate.

I thanked him, and followed up with a letter documenting our discussion. I also asked my brother-in-law, some co-workers, and NMA members who live in Fairborn to write letters.

A month later. I called the City Engineer again He confirmed the road was indeed eligible for the higher limit. A Four-way stop, which had split the road into segments less than a mile each, had been replaced buy a traffic signal some years ago. After the intersection had been signalized, posting of the 35 mph limit had been overlooked. The Engineer said the police had no problem with a 35 mph limit, but the city administration requested a traffic study.

When I called in mid-January, I was told the study was almost complete. At my request, a copy would be sent to me.

In February, 199Z, I received a letter from the City announcing that. as of February 3rd, a 35 mph limit had been posted on Dayton Drive. The speed limit study was enclosed. Speeds had been checked at two locations along Dayton Drive, and 85th percentile speeds were 36 mph and 37 mph. Furthermore, pedestrian traffic was light, and visibility was good in all directions. The evidence, the City Engineer stated, justified a 35 mph speed limit.

I wrote a "thank you" letter. Later, I called up and asked how the speed measurements were taken. A standard K-55 radar gun in a continuous radar mode had been used, I was told. Radar detectors must be uncommon on local streets, because the 85th percentile speed was still 11 mph or 12 mph over the posted speed limit.

In summary, changing the speed limit involved knowing the law, knowing the road, and some gent]e persistence. It also helped that some local residents and NMA members wrote, asking for the higher limit. With the admirable cooperation of the City of Fairborn, a 35 mph speed limit was posted on Dayton Drive less than three months after my request.

(Duke Ganote is the NMA Ohio State Chapter Coordinator)

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