Kevin Fuller has a method for dealing with cars that speed by: he stands in the road and yells at them.
But the Democratic City Council contender recognizes that other methods may prove more effective.
He said the city should have more “random radar traps on side roads to start pinching the speeders” and it should install speed humps near schools in order to slow down drivers in areas where children congregate.
Fuller is one of a number of municipal candidates who offered ideas Friday for combating shortcut-seeking commuters and rushed residents who turn some once-quiet neighborhood streets into dangerous thoroughfares in their quest to avoid congested main roads.
Democratic council hopeful Terry Parker said that “the speeding that goes on in our residential neighborhoods” is one issue he keeps hearing about as he knocks on doors all over the 3rd District.
“I, too, have heard many complaints about speeding,” said David Mills, one of the GOP contenders in the same district.
Mills said, “Living on a busy street myself, Oakland Street, I can attest to these complaints because I have been making them myself for over 30 years and nothing meaningful has been done.”
Mayor Art Ward, a Democrat seeking a second term, said that speeding “is a chronic problem throughout not only Bristol but the entire nation and needs constant oversight and enforcement exercises.”
He said residential areas that have problems with speeders “are monitored by posted stationary and mechanical speed limit signs and directed speed surveillance, but residents in the concerned areas can assist the police by notifying the department of specific violators,” the times of when most violations happen and can even ask for traffic studies to address troubled sections of town.
“The police department vigilantly patrols recognized speed areas,” the mayor said, “but, unfortunately, cannot be everywhere at all times.”
The police generally respond to residents who ask for targeted enforcement, often finding that many of the speeders on any particular street actually live in the neighborhood, as several detailed reports have shown over the years.
Democratic council contender Allen Marko said he would work with police “to establish speeding enforcement teams to target the problem neighborhoods,” a method that has proven effective.
Marko said he would also talk with public works officials about the prospects for installing speed bumps, though he recognizes they may pose some problems for snow plow operators.
Republican council contender Derek Czenczelewski said, “It is essential that drivers in Bristol understand the importance of safe driving. We often take for granted secondary streets while driving because of the lack of traffic. Just as important as other vehicles on the road are pedestrians that can go unseen until it is too late.”
“While we as local officials can't change the way others drive, we can insure that safety regulations are enforced,” Czenczelewski said.
Czenczelewski said that mobile radar trailers should be put around the city, with speed limit signs displayed, and police should hand out more tickets.
He said the public can play a role, too.
“Everyone doesn't have to become ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter,’ but I do ask that if citizens see illegal actions in any form, that they please alert the proper authorities so we can continue to make Bristol a safe place to live, work and play,” Czenczelewski said.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said residents should report speeding infractions to the police.
“It is important to keep our roads safe for residents and their children,” Cockayne said. “Unfortunately if the police aren't present in the immediate area that the speeding is taking place they can't do too much to address it.
“However, if incidents are reported and police are aware of areas where this is happening, they can increase their presence in the future and hopefully curb this type of unsafe driving,” Cockayne said.
Democratic council contender Kevin McCauley said there should be a better “accountability system” that can track complaints about traffic and other public safety issues so they can be recorded and monitored to see if the city is making progress addressing the problems.
“If neighborhood speeding and reckless driving is viewed as a priority issue by neighbors, then the police department needs to evaluate their existing resources and allocate them accordingly,” McCauley said.
“Maybe we can look into the allocation for specialty areas and put some of those dollars where they may have a greater impact,” he said.
Kate Matthews, a Democratic council candidate in the 3rd District, said, “The first step in solving any problem is to analyze it. We need to investigate what our citizens have actually complained about – whether it be actual crashes, fear of walking in a particular neighborhood, or noise-related disruptions caused by speeding.”
“Further, we need to pinpoint where, specifically, speeding is a particular problem, and the days and times when speeding is at its worst,” Matthews said.
“When we have this information, we can look at the road conditions, speed limit postings, and current speed enforcement efforts made by law enforcement to determine the best way to reduce speeding in these problem areas,” she said.
“We must use this information to ensure that our existing police resources are being utilized effectively,” she said, adding that speed display boards may help as well.
Matthews also said the city should “examine whether existing traffic signals are timed to encourage vehicles to drive at desired speeds. As roads are constructed and repaired throughout the City, we should consider implementing traffic calming measures where appropriate.”
Mills said he believes that dealing with the issue “has to become a priority for the police department before any solution will happen. The city government leaders must decide to encourage the traffic division to spend the time in the problem neighborhoods, and commit to solving the problem.”
“My suggestions would include the use of radar on a regular basis to assist the police in their efforts to slow down the traffic. This would need to be done for a consistent amount of time to be effective,” Mills said.
He said the city should also consider using stop signs at some troublesome intersections.
“There have been several accidents on Oakland and Stearns streets, for example, with someone going through the intersection. A 4-way stop sign would slow traffic down and make it safer for the neighborhood,” he said.
As a last resort, Mills said, a few strategically located speed bumps might help slow traffic.
He said addressing the problem would be a priority for him as a councilor.
Parker said he agrees the city needs to figure out a strategy that would deter the “irresponsible behavior” of speeders.
“I will work to solve this problem because the safety of our citizens young and old is at stake,” Parker said.
All of the council and mayoral candidates were given a chance to offer their thoughts on how to address speeding. Those who are not included in the story did not respond.
Voters will decide Tuesday who will lead City Hall the next two years. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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