Whose Interests Are More Important?

One of the most frequent items raised to me by people in conversation is the speed limit on Squirrel Road south of M59.  The conversation goes something like this:

“So you’re the police chief in Auburn Hills?  Why is the speed limit so slow on Squirrel near the downtown?  I take that route to work and the police are always out there writing tickets.  Is it a speed trap? ” 

Let me clarify–it isn’t a speed trap. The roadway was designed to bring the speed down to the 25 mph limit because the goal was to slow traffic through the downtown area, not funnel it quickly like we have done in other areas of the city.  An example of funneling high volume traffic is Squirrel Road from University to Walton.  In that location our goal is to help the traffic move quickly to and from I-75.  So we have designed the roadway to fulfill that purpose.  We’ve realized that maybe moving traffic at high volumes and the highest possible speeds might not be in the best interests of all the other users–like kids using parks.  Like mothers and strollers using the parks.  Like bicyclists and skateboarders going to the skate park.  Maybe they should get some priority too.  If it takes a driver a couple more minutes to get to their destination at a lower speed is that a significant concern.  There are other higher volume, higher speed roads to serve that purpose.

When you are traveling on Squirrel south of M-59 take a look around.  You’ll notice that we have a large mobile home community and apartment complex across the street from Riverwoods Park and the Skate Park.  A large number of kids and other folks cross from one side of Squirrel to the other.   We are fortunate that most drivers do obey the speed limit and don’t create an unnecessarily dangerous area for the street crossers.  But we are always conscious that the area holds potential for a serious pedestrian crash. 





So I asked Sergeant Jill McDonnell of our Directed Patrol Unit for some tips I could share with you about pedestrian safety:

Here are some safety tips and reminders for both pedestrians and motorists.

Rules and pointers for pedestrians and drivers. The most important safety tip to reduce pedestrian injuries and a fatality is to pay attention.  You can significantly reduce your chances of being in a collision with a motor vehicle by obeying traffic rules and being aware of dangers posed by cars in your vicinity.  Use crosswalks where ever possible then when crossing make eye contact with drivers if possible and make sure that they can see you.

Both drivers and pedestrians have certain safety responsibilities that depend on both circumstances and common sense.

Drivers must:

  • Yield to pedestrians when crossing a sidewalk or entering an alley or driveway
  • Yield to pedestrians who have started crossing at an intersection or crosswalk on a “walk” signal or a green light, if there is no walk signal
  • Yield to pedestrians who are crossing the highway within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic lights or control signals
  • Not overtake and pass any vehicle that stops at an intersection or crosswalk to permit a pedestrian or bicyclist to cross the roadway safely
  • Slow down in school zones, near parks and pools and in neighborhoods

Pedestrians must:

  • Yield to drivers when crossing a road where there is no intersection or crosswalk or where the pedestrian does not have a green or “walk” signal and where vehicles have a green signal
  • Do not suddenly move into the path of a closely approaching vehicle that does not have sufficient time to yield for a pedestrian
  • Walk on and along the left side of a highway when not walking on a sidewalk.  Note:  This law does not apply to bicycles.  Bicycles operate under the same laws as other legal vehicles on the road and should always stay on the right side of the road.

Pedestrian pointers to keep in mind: 

Pay attention
A recent report from the Federal Bureau of Transportation Safety concluded that the pedestrian was solely at fault in 43% of car-pedestrian collisions and that both were at fault in 13% of collisions. You can significantly reduce your chances of death or injury by obeying traffic rules and being aware of dangers posed by cars in your vicinity. More than half of pedestrian-car crashes occur while the pedestrian was crossing the street. Pay close attention to cars in your vicinity. Make eye contact with drivers if possible.

Take extra care at night and at dusk
Walking at night increases your chances of death or injury.  Drivers cannot avoid what they can’t see. When walking at night, wear retro-reflective outdoor clothing or shoes or lights to make yourself more visible.  Avoid wearing dark clothing.  Most importantly, don’t assume that drivers can see you.  Always walk on the left hand side of the road or on the sidewalk.  This way, motorists can see you and will not be approaching you from behind. 

Provide proper supervision and training for children 
Young children up to age 9 often lack the judgment and experience to make good choices when dealing with traffic. Their smaller stature also makes them harder for motorists to see. Adults need to take special care to teach children to behave safely when they are around automobile traffic. Supervision is crucial through about age 9.

Posted by

I'm the Chief of Police for the Auburn Hills Police Department.