Though it’s not something that has happened on his watch as Chief of Police, Gerald Simpson is looking to prevent pedestrian fatalities in New Garden Township after reading an article regarding Vision Zero in New York City.
The philosophy behind Vision Zero is that human beings are fallible and in New York City, many of the pedestrian fatalities come from left-hand turns where both the vehicle and people on foot both have the right away.
It is, as Simpson describes, a predictable event which can be prevented and he wants to bring that concept to the township in the form of speeding.
“With the 25-mph speed limit, we the police, by law, cannot write a ticket until you hit the 36-mph speed,” Simpson said.
In a community that is home to families, including young children, and with a speed limit of 25 mph, it became clear trouble could be just around the corner with people pushing the speed limits.
“It’s a predictable thing that children will go places where they don’t belong,” Simpson said, speaking about the possibility of kids running into the street. “No matter how hard we try as parents to alter their behavior, they will do just that. That’s how I started to look at it.”
The New Garden Police have been conducting studies in an area and found that cars were speeding through a development. When they did the math, they found that about 3,000 vehicles that drive by that area annually are speeding.
“It’s 3,000 opportunities for a vehicle that may be going too fast to strike a pedestrian,” Simpson said.
He did more research into pedestrian and vehicle collisions and found that if a person is hit by a car at 25 mph, he has a 95 percent chance of surviving. At 30 mph, the percentage decreases dramatically to 56 and at 40 mph, there is just a 15 percent chance of survival.
To try and deter people from speeding, Simpson went in front of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors June 23 to ask them to consider allotting money in the upcoming 2015 budget for the installation of speed bumps or humps, either permanent or removable, in some of the residential areas.
The speed bumps or humps will force vehicles to slow down on the street or else risk damaging their cars.
“I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to have a pedestrian fatality on my watch,” Simpson said.
Temporary speed bumps can be removed during inclement weather, such as snow in the winter, and the cost can run from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on the type.
Simpson did toy with the idea of using speed boxes, which would be roughly the same price, but came to the conclusion that while it may work in the beginning, people would soon return to speeding and younger drivers may see the box as a way to test how fast their vehicle can go.
“The point is that the police don’t always get it right,” Simpson said. “In this particular case, the enforcement is not a viable solution. We can put a police officer sitting there every morning, but (it’s not) money well spent.
“We can start thinking about the future and our communities and selectively put these types of devices down, which are proven to slow the traffic down to 15 to 25 mph. It is predictable and preventable.”