|Engineers Jay Korros (l) and Rob Hans (r) discuss traffic safety issues with city council members.|
Council members met with traffic engineering experts from CT Consultants in a special information session to better understand regulations and policies already in place and explore best practices.
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Engineering, enforcement and educationCity Administrator Ron Dill said he brought council together with the engineers and with Fort Thomas Police Chief Mike Daly to take a closer look at the issue of traffic safety in our community.
"The chief works with our in-house speed study and is, of course, in charge of our police department, which is only one aspect of what we’re talking about…The three E’s — engineering, enforcement and education — those are three important components... in how we evaluate what we do in our city," he said.
Engineers Rob Hans and Jay Korros of CT reviewed current policies and outlined the federal and state guidelines concerning traffic control. They took a look at speed limits, stop signs and crosswalks, how these are determined and what governs a need for each.
One of the most important things in traffic management is consistency, said Korros. Decisions about how to control traffic must be the same across all neighborhoods and areas of a city.
When it comes to determining a safe speed, he explained the guiding rule known as the 85th percentile. "What’s so important about the 85th percentile speed is that it is the speed where most [at or below 85 percent of] motorists feel comfortable driving and safe with the road conditions."
That percentile is determined through routine speed testing, he explained. Typically, law enforcement uses stealth devices to measure the speed of drivers traveling in a specific spot. These devices give a more honest measurement of the speed at which most people feel comfortable driving.
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"The problem is that if you put a stop sign at a place that does not seem logical, people will start to ask 'why am I stopping here?' and eventually some will disrespect it and run it. Then you create issues of safety."
All-ways stops are another situation where logic must determine placement, he said. These should be used only when there is equal volume on both streets. If one street has low traffic, eventually some people will begin to ignore the stop, leading to an unsafe situation.
Here’s a summary of the information the engineers shared:
- The speed limit set by Kentucky statute for urban and residential areas is 35mph.
- A city can set speed on local streets by ordinance. On most local streets in Fort Thomas, the speed is 25mph.
- A key metric in determining safe speed is known as the 85th percentile, a speed at which 85 percent of drivers feel comfortable and safe.
- Kentucky follows federal guidelines set forth in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD.
- The MUTCD dictates that stop signs cannot be used for speed control. They are used for traffic flow.
- Stop signs may be used at locations with high volumes of conflicting traffic, when there are difficult movements at locations where two streets meet, where there is limited sight distance and where roadway geometrics, such as slope, indicate one is needed to improve safety.
- Two main factors determine if a crosswalk is necessary: volume of pedestrians and engineering considerations.
- Location of a crosswalk is based on destination, not convenience. In other words, a crosswalk helps the flow of foot traffic on route to a destination.
- Pedestrian safety is the key in determining placement of a crosswalk.
If traffic control devices are limited in their ability to slow traffic, what is the answer to ensure safety on our streets?
The issue must be addressed through all three factors, engineering, education and enforcement, to ensure a safe environment in the community, said Dill.
From an enforcement standpoint, the city uses both stealth devices and devices that show people what their speeds are. Law enforcement will ticket drivers who go over the 85th percentile speed, but the problem is resources, he said. "Our law enforcement can’t be everywhere all the time. That is why education is so important."
Hans explained there are speed indication devices available that are smaller and less cumbersome than the traffic devices now used by the city. The new technology can be placed in more areas to help educate drivers. He is looking into the cost and funding opportunities for the city.
The key has to be education, said Council Member Roger Peterman. "Those devices can help, but we need to communicate with people. Some may not even be aware…I think you need to remind people periodically."