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Published on - Oct. 19, 2005
This and That
The speed bump dilemma
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I’m a safe driver. I drive slow in the right hand lane, and cruise the interstates below the posted speed limit.

I laugh at the morons who race from one traffic light to the next, only to wait until I catch up at a snail’s pace.

But I hate speed humps, and Pinellas County has its share of them.

I also dislike those traffic islands in the middle of streets constructed under the guise of accident prevention.

The increase of each on public roads is absurd and dangerous. Roads are for motor vehicles and drivers shouldn’t have to be subjected to such inconveniences.

The National Motorists Association said most fire and emergency rescue agencies oppose speed humps. Response time greater than four minutes increases the danger of heart attack and stroke victims.

The humps also cause discomfort and potential danger to victims in ambulances because the vehicles have stiffer suspensions, greater weight and are slowed dramatically by speed humps.

The road bulges are installed in series that turns seconds of delay into minutes because emergency vehicles are unable to regain cruising speed between the devices. Regular traffic congestion is sporadic whereas humps deliberately cause delays, slowing down emergency vehicles approximately 15 seconds per bump. And those seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

A study by the Austin, Texas, Fire Department said ambulances are slowed down dramatically by the humps. The American Lung Association points to increased risk of personal injury to bicyclists and motorcyclists.

No studies or evidence exists to support the value of these devices. Hump advocates admit that, even with a decrease of speed, accidents do not “fall to a statistically significant degree.” (”Traffic Calming, State-of-the-Art,” by Reid Ewing, for the Institute of Transportation Engineers and FHA.)

Humps often are promoted on the basis that they protect children. In truth it is unlikely humps prevent any deaths. Houston, Texas, has the most extensive speed hump program in the nation, yet all of the city’s speed humps together would save one life every 400-plus years!

Another study claims that humps boost air pollution. Federal officials terminated Portland Maine’s experiment with humps due to increased pollution, accidents and fuel consumption.

The bumps are designed to sidetrack traffic to other streets and residential areas, causing increased risks to children who live in these neighborhoods. Diverted traffic means more travel time and further risks of accidents. Installing humps along residential roadways can only increase mid-block accidents where humps exist.

Then there is the increase in auto repairs. Vehicle damage occurs when drivers fail to see the hump and do not respond in time. One Pinellas County strip mall has a hump so high that even creeping over it causes scraping sounds. Dubbed “Mt. Pinellas,” motorists simply bypass that particular entrance or drive around the hump. It is now painted a bright yellow because so many cars have been damaged.

Then there are the traffic islands that appear to be accidents waiting to happen. They are located in the middle of roads. Along with them are so-called “soft” humps that have become skateboard and bicycle acrobatic courses for local kids.

So much for child safety.

Lest we forget the series of islands in one Pinellas County city. They are located in the middle of this long road. This is largely an industrial area and some of these obstacles remain unlit at night! I can’t imagine what employees from those factories and others go through at quitting time? The bottom line is that humps deprive taxpayers of rightful unimpeded access to streets they helped pay for. HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) found using gates to close public streets discriminatory and even required one city to stop using them. Any way you look at it, humps are a major nuisance and are dangerous. It also leaves homeowners who sign petitions to have them installed open to lawsuits.

I, like many residents, find the speed humps, islands and other so-called traffic calmers totally unacceptable.

Until next time...

Thomas Michalski is the staff writer for Pinellas Park Beacon.
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