Speeding: County should have radar

Published 7:25 pm Friday, August 11, 2006

The Mississippi Legislature needs to carefully reconsider changing a law prohibiting sheriff departments in smaller counties from using radar to slow down speeders.

Bolivar County residents are well aware of a fellow resident, James Turner Hardy, 25, who was killed early Saturday morning when he lost control of his red Ford pick-up. Hardy was thrown from his vehicle before it crashed into a mobile home along North Bayou Road.

Sheriff H.M. “Mack” Grimmett said he tried last year to get permission to use radar guns on certain county roads, including North Bayou, which many a motorist purposely mistake as speedways, blithely ignoring the 45 mph speed limit. The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors approved Grimmett’s request, but the measure failed to gain legislative approval.

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We remember one North Bayou resident describe how a dog on North Bayou was hit by a car. The vehicle was going so fast the hapless animal was sent flying several feet to its death.

The fact of the matter is speeding is dangerous business. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it influences the risk of crashes and crash injuries in three basic ways:

— It increases the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver detects an emergency to the time the driver reacts.

— It increases the distance needed to stop a vehicle once an emergency is perceived.

— It increases the crash energy by the square of the speeds. When impact speed increases, for example, from 40 to 60 mph (a 50 percent increase), the energy that needs to be managed increases by 125 percent.

The national traffic safety experts say that speeding is a factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes, killing an average of 1,000 Americans every month. In 2004, 13,000 people died in speed-related crashes. The national economic loss from such wrecks is more than $40 billion annually.

Grimmett’s desire to run radar on a handful of roads where motorist regularly abuse the speed law, is right on track.

Consistent enforcement of speed limits is a proven factor in the cutting down of speeding and saving lives. Great Britain, which started setting up speed camera networks along its roads, managed to dramatically cut down on its traffic deaths.

The United States was only able to reduce our speeding fatalities from 1990 to 1999 by a mere 6.5 percent. The British, thanks largely to their speed cameras, cut their road deaths by 33.9 percent.

Legislators, who are leery of ticket-happy deputies, truly need to consider which is worse.

Is it the deputies or the people who die because the Legislature won’t permit sheriff departments to use the tools they need to enforce the law?

If common sense doesn’t answer that question, a sense of humanity should.