TIA Will Study Speeds on Gravel Roads

Data Shows Crash Reduction After the Removal of 25 MPH Signs

Contact: Jim Santilli, Executive Director, (248) 334-4971

tia-speeds-on-gravel-roadsROCHESTER HILLS, Michigan, June 26, 2012 – In response to a public meeting that was held at the Rochester Hills City Hall on Thursday evening, the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan (TIA) will conduct a study of traffic speeds and review other factors on the unpaved sections of Dutton and Washington roads.

“TIA recently reviewed the crash data on these roads and did not see any indication that a crash problem exists,” said Jim Santilli, executive director of TIA.  “However, we will examine the traffic speeds and other factors, then share the information with our traffic safety partners at the state, county, and local levels.”

Thursday’s meeting was organized by Rochester Hills City Councilman Adam Kochenderfer in response to residents expressing safety concerns over the removal of the 25 mph signs on gravel roads.

In 2006, a state law revised the Michigan Vehicle Code in the interest of uniformity and safety.  The revision repealed the residence district definition that was widely misused to post unwarranted 25 mph speed limits on rural gravel roads.  The current law allows drivers to travel at a safe and reasonable speed with a maximum of 55 mph if road conditions permit.  State Representative Eileen Kowall recently introduced House Bill 4037, which would re-establish speed limits on gravel roads.

“From a safety perspective, the current system for setting speed limits is working,” said Santilli.  “Traffic safety decisions need to be educated decisions that are data-driven, not political motivations or personal emotions.  State elected officials could cause an increase of deaths and injuries if they were to change the current system or eliminate uniformity.”

Also, in attendance at the meeting were officials from the Michigan State Police, Road Commission for Oakland County, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, Rochester Hills Engineering, and TIA.

According to Santilli, a study conducted by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) indicated there were 441 crashes on Oakland County gravel roads in 2007, 447 in 2008, 371 in 2010, and 345 in 2011.  The 25 mph signs were removed in April of 2009.  A 1990 study by RCOC also concluded that the 25 mph signage on gravel roads was “ineffective.”

“The reality is that removing the 25 mph signage on Oakland County gravel roads did not make the roads dangerous, or cause an overall increase of crashes,” said Santilli.  “Enforcement can still be conducted, and a driver can be ticketed for speed too fast for conditions if they are jeopardizing safety.”

TIA reports there were 2 crashes in 2007 and 2 crashes in 2008 on Dutton, between Rainbow and Arthurs Way.  There was 1 crash in 2010, and 2 crashes in 2011 on the same section.  In the past, the section had between 1 and 9 crashes per year dating back to 2000.  On Washington, between Cornerstone and Carter, there was 1 crash in 2007, 2 crashes in 2008, 0 crashes in 2010, and 1 crash in 2011.  Previously, the section had between 1 and 2 crashes per year dating back to 2000.

Santilli added that the traffic volume on Dutton, between Brewster and Livernois increased from 1,261 vehicles per day in 2008 to 1,594 vehicles per day in 2011, yet crashes did not increase despite the removal of the signage.

F/Lt. Thad Peterson, Commander of the Michigan State Police Traffic Services Section in Lansing, said speed limits should not be set based on casual observations or uninformed opinion, and lower speed limits do not necessarily improve safety.

“Posting the speed limits lower or higher than what the majority of drivers are traveling produces two distinct groups of drivers – those attempting to observe the speed limit and those driving at what they feel is reasonable and prudent,” said Peterson.  “These differences in speeds may result in increased crashes due to tailgating, improper passing, and reckless driving.”

Peterson added that inappropriately established speed limits also foster disregard for other speed limits, traffic signs and signals, and contribute to driver frustration.

“Since lower speed limits cannot be consistently enforced, they will be violated and will breed disregard for speed limits in general,” he said.

Peterson is currently evaluating the feasibility of taking into consideration the width of a gravel road when establishing speed limits.  He will review TIA’s findings once they are available.