Analysis: Georgia's speed limits are moving targets

Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:39 PM
Last updated Monday, May 23, 2011 5:59 AM
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As the summer driving season kicks off on Memorial Day, motorists on Georgia roads can prepare for frustration as they encounter other vehicles going faster or slower because it's hard to know how fast is too fast.

In Georgia, city police and county sheriff's deputies using radar must allow a 10 mph cushion except in school zones and historic districts where pedestrians are likely. State troopers use their own discretion.

"Additionally on enforcement, troopers will generally target the higher speeds first since crash severity is compounded as the speeds go higher," said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

It may not be surprising, then, that motorists pick different speeds as their idea of what is proper. For some, it's the speed limit. For others, just shy of 10 mph over, and still others aim to be slower than the fastest vehicle.

Naturally, that leads to some frustration when they encounter each other.

That may explain the public support for a bill in 2010 that would have required motorists in the left-hand lane to yield to a faster driver coming from behind wanting to pass. However, only vehicles driving below the speed limit would have been forced to move over.

The bill failed to pass and wasn't re-introduced this year. The current law doesn't require speeders to get out of each other's way, and as long as there's an undefined practical speed limit, drivers on Georgia roads are on their own when it comes to guessing the actual allowable maximum.

Georgia's troopers split their time between rural highways and the interstates, targeting the fastest motorists. That's because Georgia has only 24 more troopers than it did 30 years ago when the population was roughly half.

"We have a serious shortage of troopers on the road," said Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Ricca, chairman of the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.

The safest roads are the interstates, according to federal statistics, but the Georgia State Patrol won't focus exclusively on where the greatest danger is. Instead, it will divide its resources, despite a manpower shortage.

However, they do concentrate on the fastest drivers, according to Wright.

So, does leaving speeders immune to tickets as long as they're not the fastest cars on the road make bad policy?

"No, intercepting the high-end speeders reduces the potential for that driver to be involved in a serious crash," he said.

Monday, Georgia is joining with other Southern states in a media campaign called 100 Days of Summer HEAT, or Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic. Troopers and local law-enforcement officers will be visible in their enforcement of speed limits and the law requiring seat belts.

Seat-belt compliance and speed-related fatalities have been improving nationally and in Georgia. Since 2005, yearly speed-related deaths have dropped from 340 to 238 in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Seat-belt usage has hovered at 90 percent in that period, but it was as low as 58 percent in 1994.

Still, the Peach State is a dangerous place to drive, no matter how it's measured.

In terms of total fatalities - regardless of cause - 1,284 died in 2009. Viewed per 100 million miles driven, the rate of death on Georgia roads in 2009 was 1.18 compared with the national average of 1.14. In terms of fatalities per 100,000 population, the state's rate of 13.06 was still above the national average of 11.01.

Getting the rate down to the national average in terms of population would save 201 lives yearly. Matching the U.S. average mileage rate would save 44 lives.

Georgia is better than the national average in one respect. Speed was a factor in 31 percent of all fatal wrecks across the country, but it factored into just 19 percent of Georgia's killer accidents.

One other figure jumps out: the difference between rural roads and urban streets. Drivers are nearly twice as likely to die on a road in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, Georgia has a lot of rural roads to patrol. With a limited number of troopers, below the nation's per-capita average even before the recession, state officials have a challenge covering all the bases.

Technology is what experts call a force multiplier. Some states use unmanned patrol cars parked near roads as decoys. Others use unmanned radar devices that either flash a driver's speed on a billboard or take a picture of the vehicle's tag to automatically cite the owner by mail.

Such technology isn't popular with everyone. AAA Auto Club South, for instance, accepts that it might be necessary in places but prefers humans handing out the tickets.

"We would hope that all patrol cars are identifiable," said Karen Morgan, AAA spokeswoman.

From a legislative standpoint, Bearden agrees because automatic radar cameras aren't calibrated as often as those operated by officers.

"I think an officer is the one that should be writing tickets," said Bearden, a former policeman.

Instead of hidden detection devices, visibility is the key to slowing drivers, he said. In Douglasville, highway traffic slowed when approaching that city because its 10 motorcycle patrolmen were so visible, he said.

National experts feel the same way, according to Barbara Hersha, executive director of the national Governor's Highway Safety Association.

"The idea behind general deterrence is law enforcement can't be everywhere. So, you want them to be on the road in a very visible way," she said. "The purpose is not necessarily to write tickets or raise revenue but to do it in such a way that drivers are safer."

And she would deploy that show of manpower along the roads shown by statistics to be the most deadly. That's at odds with the Georgia State Patrol.

"If the crash statistics indicate, yes, it makes sense for law enforcement to put a vehicle there to enforce the speed limit," she said.


Contact Walter C. Jones: (404) 589-8424

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happychimer
17688
Points
happychimer 05/22/11 - 04:04 pm
0
0
That may explain the public

That may explain the public support for a bill in 2010 that would have required motorists in the left-hand lane to yield to a faster driver coming from behind wanting to pass. However, only vehicles driving below the speed limit would have been forced to move over.

The bill failed to pass and wasn't re-introduced this year. The current law doesn't require speeders to get out of each other's way, and as long as there's an undefined practical speed limit, drivers on Georgia roads are on their own when it comes to guessing the actual allowable maximum.

And posters on here have been preaching that drivers have to move to the right for all drivers coming up behind. Others have said that all drivers have to be in the right lane, which is ridiculous.

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 05/22/11 - 04:16 pm
0
0
If you ever plan to drive in
Unpublished

If you ever plan to drive in Europe, you had better stay left except for passing or you could wind up with a Porche emblem for a rear bumper. Of course they are required to be able to drive if they want a license. P.S they are also fined for: having slick tires, driving with busted lights, running out of gas, turning without an indicator, stopping on the left shoulder etc. etc. etc.

happychimer
17688
Points
happychimer 05/22/11 - 04:22 pm
0
0
I don't plan driving in

I don't plan driving in Europe. I don't know if I will visit there or not. I have only been to one other country, Canada, and there is no place like home...Good ole USA.

wribbs
435
Points
wribbs 05/22/11 - 06:40 pm
0
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Speed was a factor in 31

Speed was a factor in 31 percent of all fatal wrecks across the country, but it factored into just 19 percent of Georgia's killer accidents.

Speeding tickets are not about keeping people safe, they are all about generating revenue. If State Patrol and other police wanted to keep people safe they would be writing tickets for running stop signs, tail gating, and other stupid things drivers do all the time. It's easy for them to write a speeding ticket, just zap somebody with a radar gun and write the ticket. The things that really require some work and actually keep drivers safe are to much trouble for them so they take the easy way out and just write speeding tickets.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 05/22/11 - 08:06 pm
0
0
wribbs, speed in Georgia is a

wribbs, speed in Georgia is a factor in more than 200 deaths or 19% - Do you not think that could be contributed to aggressive traffic patrol by GSP and other agencies. Cops don't get raises, bonuses, or even pats on the back for writing a speeding ticket. In fact, they generally get a lot of grief and headaches, have to attend court more often on their days off, etc. Therefore, since it is of NO benefit to them it may be that they do it because it is their job, it is what they are trained to do, they attend class after class that show how speed kills and they see many accidents that are speed related, even if they don't result in death.

Speeding tickets ARE about keeping people safe and from statistics; it is helping here in Georgia thanks to the GSP and other agencies that patrol for speed only in highly visible marked patrol cars.

Police do write tickets for running stop signs, tail gating, and other things people do all of the time and generally with the same results are you are spewing...why don't you officers stop bothering me and go deal with some other law breaker. It is simple; obey the law - they weren't written by the police, only enforced.

As for being easy to write a speeding ticket compared to the other things you would prefer them to do...False!! It requires no additional training or expertise to write a ticket for someone running a stop sign or many other violations of the law. It does however require specialized training in radar and laser prior to issuing traffic citations for speeding. You must also undergo continued training and certification in order to issue such tickets. Additional information is required on all speeding tickets compared to other tickets and therefore they actually are "more work" than say a stop sign violation.

No matter what they do, they aren't taking the "easy way out" as they take abuse often not to mention that traffic stops often net more criminal activity and/or result in injury or death to police officers.

Speed limits are determined on many factors but once determined, they are in the best interest of all and should simply be followed. If you choose to exceed then don't complain about receiving consequences for your actions.

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 05/22/11 - 08:13 pm
0
0
HappyChimer, Georgia does

HappyChimer, Georgia does have current laws to which some wish to expand upon.

Georgia Code - 40-6-40
40-6-40. (a) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows: (1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement; (2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway, provided that any person so doing shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such a distance as to constitute an immediate hazard; (3) Upon a roadway divided into three marked lanes for traffic under the rules applicable thereon; or (4) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic. (b) Upon all roadways, any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway. (c) Upon any roadway having four or more lanes for moving traffic and providing for two-way movement of traffic, no vehicle shall be driven to the left of the center of the roadway except when authorized by official traffic-control devices designating certain lanes to the left of the center of the roadway for use by traffic not otherwise permitted to use such lanes or except as permitted under paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this Code section. However, this subsection shall not be construed as prohibiting the crossing of the center of the roadway in making a left turn into or from an alley, private road, or driveway. (d) No two vehicles shall impede the normal flow of traffic by traveling side by side at the same time while in adjacent lanes, provided that this Code section shall not be construed to prevent vehicles traveling side by side in adjacent lanes because of congested traffic conditions.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 05/23/11 - 03:00 pm
0
0
I have both agreement and

I have both agreement and disagreement with the above posts. I agree that
keeping right is the understood rule of the road if not enforceable law.
People who cruise the left lane force others to pass on the right, an
inherantly more dangerous manuever. You may not care if it is dangerous to
the speeder who wants around you, but you should care about the other
motorists who are also endangered by this person blasting past you on the
right because you are too ignorant or self absorbed to realize you are
obstucting traffic.
I have to chuckle about the "training" for radar and laser. Sorry, but that
ain't rocket science. Hiding in the bushes and collecting money is not
enhancing public safety. As the poster said, patrolling the roads and nabbing
the jerks tailgating, darting in and out of lanes, DRIVING DRUNK (excessively
slow, weaving, being erratic and all of those other things you can't see
parked by the road running radar), cutting people off at exits, etc. would go
a lot farther in promoting safe driving than collecting taxes with a laser
gun.
A couple of months ago I was qued up in the exit lane during rush hour coming
off 285 from the Atlanta airport to I-20. As is typical, the "me first" jerks
who go all the way to the front of the que and cut over were doing their
thing (THEY are why traffic stops and why I refuse to let them in), but they
were in for a surprise. There was an officer parked in the vee of the
intersection waving them over for a ticket. I could have gotten out and
hugged her neck. THAT is the kind of traffic enforcement the motoring public
wants, ticketing the jerks who use turn only lanes to jackrabbit ahead of
everyone and those driving like madmen in heavy traffic. The lone dummy who
kills himself in a single car accident on a rural road doesn't affect me or
you whatsoever. So what if I'm doing 100 down I-16 in the middle of the
night? Nobody is on the road but me and the county cop lurking in the dark
with the radar on. How is giving me a ticket on an essentially empty highway
helping public safety?

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