Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
“Stealth Radar” adds to the discussion about crashes into the City Cemetery wall
There has been much discussion recently concerning the repeated vehicle crashes into the City Cemetery wall, and many residents, including the writer of this editorial, may conclude that the prevalence of drivers speeding in the area is to blame.
While this assumption would seem to be reasonable, it is not supported by the data collected by the Police Department in a survey that studied the habits of drivers on Amelia St near the intersection with Washington Avenue, the common launching point of errant vehicles before they impact the brick wall.
On February 21-23, the Police Department deployed a device on Amelia Street called “Stealth Radar”, which is a small self-contained box that captures and records data from passing vehicles. The radar device is very unobtrusive and rarely noticed by motorists and pedestrians, as it resembles other typical boxes which may be mounted on a telephone pole or similar piece of the street landscape. The device is not a traffic enforcement tool. It is simply a means to collect information that can be used to highlight the need for added enforcement or to influence the placement of traffic control signs or signals.
The Police Department uses the device to determine the locations in the City and the times of the day and week where our resources can best be used to control violators and thus contribute to the overall safety of the streets in Fredericksburg.
The data collected over the three days in February on Amelia Street is enlightening.
During the three-day time period studied, a total of 6,448 vehicles passed the Stealth Radar device on Amelia Street.
The average speed of the vehicles was 23 miles per hour. The speed limit on Amelia Street is 25 miles per hour.
Of the vehicles tracked, 50 percent of them were traveling at 24 miles per hour or slower, and 85 percent of them were traveling at 29 miles per hour or slower. Unless other mitigating circumstances exist, an officer will not stop a vehicle or ticket a driver traveling 29 mph in a 25 mph zone. (If an over-zealous officer did write such a citation, the chances of it being thrown out in court are near certain.)
Out of the 6,448 cars in the study, the highest speed captured was 50 miles per hour and that was from a single vehicle. Fully 98 percent of the vehicles were traveling 34 miles per hour or slower.
Further studies will be conducted of this particular intersection, as well as of other intersections and roadways where problems have been identified. Unfortunately, there are many locations throughout Fredericksburg where drivers routinely exceed the posted speed limit; however, the majority of those locations are not in the downtown area nor are they in residential areas.
While residential areas are the focus of a large number of complaints about speeding, when studied it is generally found that the perception of the problem is not supported by the statistics gathered. This misperception is understandable when you consider that vehicles appear to be going much faster than they really are when the observer is a pedestrian on the sidewalk and when the reported speeding vehicle is traveling past unmoving parked cars.
The deployment of a stationary patrol officer with radar would simply be a wasted resource if the vast majority of the drivers traveling through the targeted area are not violating the law to a degree that will be supported by a court disposition.
We want everyone everywhere to slow down, obey the traffic laws, stay off your cell phones, and do NOT drive while impaired. And please, do use some extra care when navigating the intersection at the entrance to the City and Confederate Cemeteries. The wall has borne these repeated insults with grace and dignity, but enough is enough!