First grader says speed signs should say Speed Up! too

The in basket: Denise Kilkenny-Tittle wrote, “About three months ago, my 7-year-old son Adrian asked whether the temporary electric speed sensor signs tell people to speed up if they are going too slow.

“I told him that I didn’t know, so one evening when nobody was behind me, I went really slow in my car to see what the sign would say.  The sign did not light up at all.  It did not register. So I tried again to determine at what speed the sign is activated. For a 35 mph zone, the sign only registered speeds of 20 mph and higher.

“Well,  my son said we need to tell somebody to fix that and make the electric sign say, ‘Speed Up!’ because cars that are going too slow are a hazard and cause traffic.”

She had Adrian write a letter which read, “Frum Adrian Tittle, age 7, grade 1st. Why don’t electric slowdown signs say speed up when someone is going slow and cases traffic.  That way there’s no traffic. To Road Warrior.”

The out basket: I can’t be sure, but Adrian may be the youngest inquirer ever to seek advice in the Road Warrior’s 2,011 columns (I’ve been keeping track).

Comedian and vegetable mangler Gallagher has a bit about seeing things with new eyes, and Adrian certainly used new eyes when he looked at the speed signs.

I asked the county for an answer.

They sent one to Adrian and copied it to me. County traffic engineer Jeff Shea told him, “That was a great question you asked. Unfortunately our signs are not designed to do what you have asked. We don’t have as many problems with slow cars as we do with cars going too fast. That is why our signs flash at motorists going faster than the speed limit.

“It’s also hard for police officers to write a ticket when motorists go too slowly. Motorists can drive slower than the speed limit; it’s not against the law to go slower than the speed limit. The speed limit is just that, the maximum speed drivers can go.

“On most of our roads, slower cars are not normally a safety problem, but they can be an inconvenience to other motorists.  On high speed highways, slow cars can be a real safety hazard so some highways have a minimum speed limit. Our local roads do not.

“There is a Washington State law that addresses slow moving cars. This state law requires a slower driver to pull off to the side of the road and let traffic get around them when they delay more than five cars.

“So Adrian, it is unlikely that you will see a sign that flashes at cars to make them go faster.  We try very hard to keep county roads as safe as possible.  We focus on cars going too fast.  They are the ones that cause a lot more accidents than slow-moving cars.  The accidents they cause tend to be very serious with injuries and sometimes deaths.

“Thanks again for your interesting question.  It’s great to see the drivers of tomorrow learning about our traffic today.”

The Road Warrior was on McWilliams Road the other day and the bossy sign there (It flashes “Slow Down” if you’re even one mile over the 25 mph limit) appeared to light up at 15 mph.

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