ASK A TROOPER: Speed limits raised due to legislation

I recently received a question via email asking why speed limits in the area were raised while there are the State of Michigan sponsored signs alerting drivers that traffic deaths are up over 2016.

Public Act 445 was passed in 2016. It tasked the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan State Police (MSP) with increasing speed limits on some state highways and freeways.

TROOPER WICKER

TROOPER WICKER

The legislation required speed limits to be raised within a year on roads where studies of safety, engineering and the 85th percentile of free-flowing traffic speeds deem it safe. This means that traffic studies were conducted to determine the average speed in a particular area that is deemed safe. The safety study took crash patterns and frequency into account. It also examined traffic capacity, volumes and roadway geometry like hills and curves. If the safety requirements were met and the free flow traffic dictated that an increased speed is prudent, then those were areas where the speed was increased.

Interestingly, distracted driving is the main cause of traffic crashes rather than speed. Seriously, why do drivers crash into stopped vehicles, school buses and patrol cars that have their emergency lights on? They are distracted. Cellular telephone use is not the only distraction drivers are facing.

How many times this past week have you drifted over the fog or centerline, hit the rumble strips, pulled out in front of someone or missed an exit? How many times have you seen another vehicle do one of those things?

No one gets in the car to travel somewhere and chooses to do something in the vehicle that will distract them. A driver’s attention goes elsewhere for a variety of reasons. Maybe the driver is eating, drinking coffee, looking at billboard advertisements, adjusting the radio or heat, or thinking about work. Whatever the cause is, the driver becomes distracted and loses focus on their primary responsibility. This is when the majority of crashes occur.

Remember, if at any time you feel unsafe driving at a particular speed, you may slow down. There is no requirement that you travel at the maximum posted speed limit. Travel safely.

A second question I received asked why is there not a greater law enforcement presence on roadways, specifically U.S. 131, in an effort to curtail speeding, hold drivers accountable and keep those that respect traffic laws safe?

I cannot speak for traffic enforcement in areas other than the Cadillac Post, but I imagine the reason you may not see law enforcement presence elsewhere may be the same.

Many may know Michigan State Police troopers enforce traffic laws on all roadways in the state, but troopers also conduct investigations.

The Cadillac Post troopers are assigned to Wexford, Manistee, Benzie, Leelenau and Grand Traverse counties. We respond to 911 calls utilizing the closest car concept in those counties. That means, when someone calls 911, the closest law enforcement agency responds to provide a prompt response as possible. Troopers patrol the road when they are not involved in an investigation and at times, they are pulled away from patrolling the freeway to handle an investigation.

I would like to use the following analogy. When you drive down the road, you know there is a possibility that a deer may run out in front of you. You do not always see a deer, but some other driver right in front of or behind you may have. Just because you do not see them, does not mean that deer were not there before or after you passed through.

The same holds true with an officer on patrol. It is possible that the officer had just passed through, was just seconds in front of or behind you and turned off or was called away from the area. Though you may not always see us, all law enforcement are out there doing our best to keep the motoring public safe.

Tpr. Kathleen Wicker will be answering your law-enforcement related questions in future “Ask Your Trooper” columns. Please write, or email, your questions to her at Michigan State Police, ATTN: Tpr. Wicker, 7711 S. US. 131 Cadillac, MI 49601 or email wickerk@michigan.gov.

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