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But there's no need for speed in communities

Published July 26. 2014 09:00AM

Some interstates will be seeing increased speed limits in the very near future, but local police officials see no such need for speed in their communities.

Tamaqua Chief of Police Rick Weaver and Rush Township Sgt. Duane Frederick share the same opinion on the news from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that speed limits on certain sections of the turnpike and interstates will be increased to 70 mph.

"That works for the interstates, where you have long, straight stretches of roads with no distractions, but in residential communities, lower limits are better," Frederick said.

"Side streets, pedestrians, cyclists all prove to be distractions for drivers. Going more than 25-35 mph when you have other motorists pulling out from side streets every 50 feet or so is just asking for an accident to happen."

"Speed kills," Weaver said. "The majority of traffic accidents are caused by drivers going too fast, either for conditions or to react when they become distracted. And there are plenty of distractions in residential areas."

Communities also tend to have heavier concentrations of traffic, leading to delays, which makes for impatient motorists.

Both men consider the current speed limits on their roadways to be appropriate.

Rush Township's biggest traffic problems are concentrated in the village of Hometown, Frederick said.

"There have been a lot of accidents at the Walmart intersection because there is no left turn lane when you're traveling south. We had PennDOT do a traffic study. They didn't recommend any changes to the intersection, but the speed limit in the area of Walmart on Route 309 was lowered from 55 to 45 mph from Grove Street north to Basile's Restaurant."

Frederick said another problem occurs when impatient drivers use side streets in an effort to gain a minute's time due to backups at the Five Points intersection (routes 209 and 309).

"Drivers pulling out of the side streets in front of impatient drivers who've been stuck in traffic can be disastrous," Frederick said.

Tamaqua's Five Points intersection is a trouble spot.

"The bridge detour and the lack of a left-turn lane for drivers making the turn from Center to West Broad Street causes heavy traffic tie-ups throughout the day. PennDOT also conducted a study there but didn't recommend any changes," Weaver said.

The other traffic problem in Tamaqua is "No one drives the speed limit," Weaver said.

"Everyone's doing 10 or more over the posted limits. Speed limits on 209 and 309 have been lowered to 25 mph, but people speed anyway. Our guys have clocked some drivers, traveling between the southern borough limit and the Hess Express, at 80 mph. The limit there is 45, but almost no one drives that speed. We're not picking on them. We're just trying to make our streets safer."

One way the departments are trying to keep speeds down is by participating in the Aggressive Driving Campaign currently underway through the Pennsylvania Aggressive Driving Enforcement and Education Project.

The aggressive driving enforcement is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"What we really need that will get drivers' attention is radar," Frederick said.

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