EDITORIAL: Why not lower speed limit at Schoharie limo crash site?

DOT should reconsider dropping speed limit on Route 30/30A intersection
The accident intersection at Route 30 and Route 30A in Schoharie, October 8, 2018.
The accident intersection at Route 30 and Route 30A in Schoharie, October 8, 2018.

Do speed limit signs have new constitutional rights we don’t know about?

Has a judge designated them a protected class, bestowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Will a group of signs sue the state if someone takes them down and replaces them with lower speed limit signs?

We’re guessing none of that’s true. But for some reason, the state Department of Transportation is stubbornly ignoring expert testimony, common sense and their own eyes by refusing to lower the speed limit on the Route 30 hill leading down to its intersection with Route 30A in Schoharie where a limousine crashed last October, killing 20 people.

The cause of the crash hasn’t been officially determined, and several factors are considered contributors, including the failure of the limousine’s brakes and the design of the intersection.

While excessive speed might not be determined to be the primary contributor to the crash, it’s clear that the faster one approaches an intersection, the more difficult it is to avoid a crash and the more damage that might be caused when the speeding vehicle hits something or someone in its path.

Given the history and reputation of this particular intersection and the catastrophic injuries that were caused by last year’s crash, one would think the least the DOT could do to protect other drivers is urge them to slow down as they approach the intersection.

The 55 mph speed limit drops to 50 mph about 850 feet from the bottom of the Route 30/30A intersection, according to the Times Union. A former state traffic engineer has said the posted speed limit there is “excessive and unsafe,” the newspaper reported.

Urging drivers to slow down as they near an intersection is never a bad thing.

At 50 mph, under normal driving conditions and typical driver reaction time, it will take a regular-size car about 175-235 feet to come to a stop. Road conditions, weather and vehicle condition can increase the stopping distance required. 

While DOT officials say the speed limit is appropriate for that intersection, what would be the harm in this particular instance of lowering it? There’s apparently no legal impediment or liability issue related to the limo crash to setting the speed limit lower than 55 or 50 mph.

If lowering the speed limit to 45 mph or 40 mph on the approach has the potential to get drivers to slow down and to make the intersection a little less vulnerable to a crash, why not just lower it?

Wouldn’t it be worth it if it helps even one driver avoid a catastrophe?

If the object of lower speed limits is to make roads safer, then what better intersection than this to make a change?

The DOT should reconsider its decision.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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