How many times have you been driving and wondered to yourself, “Who in the world came up with these traffic patterns; who decided to put so many traffic lights in this area; and why is the speed limit so ridiculously slow?” We often blame our local politicians, but it’s actually the work of civil engineers, and lots of them. These engineers engage in not only the design of our roadways, but they also conduct extensive research on everything from soil erosion rates to population growth in an effort to predict where and how to build roads.
Traffic engineers – these are the guys who design traffic control installations and modifications. Yep, all of those traffic signals, signage, and pavement markings are the work of traffic engineers. Now we can’t blame it all on traffic engineers – there are transportation engineers, highway engineers, and even bicycle transportation engineers among others. This is just a small example of the sub-sections that fall under civil engineering, and each contributes somehow to the madness that is the highways and byways of Miami, FL.
Anyone who knows an engineer of any sort knows that they can often over-think things sometimes, and that would seem to be the case with the planning and design of Miami-Dade roads. For all of their research and planning, they seem to have overlooked the State of Florida’s penchant for issuing -ALL CITATIONS traffic citations. Florida is, after all, the fourth in the country most likely to issue traffic tickets, but is misleading. Florida actually issues more traffic tickets than the first three states on the list, but population density is the variable that makes us fourth “most likely”.
It is not surprising when you think about some of the factors that cause us to commit traffic violations. Let’s look at running a red light. It’s very easy to get impatient when you just sat through three cycles of a traffic light because of the density of traffic. By the time you get to go, you have stared at the bumper of the guy in front of you for so long that you start thinking, “Hey, if he goes, I’m going, too!” Another such scenario that is likely to push your patience too far is when you are in an area that seems to have a traffic signal at every, single business entrance. What is intended to regulate the flow of traffic just ends up pissing people off.
In failing to design roads in a manner that allows for the free flow of traffic, and by not setting appropriate speed limits, drivers in Miami-Dade are often so relieved once they get to proceed that it’s easy to understand why they would speed. After a half hour or more stuck in traffic, it’s reasonable to think that everyone just wants to get to their destination, but most of the time speed limits are not set appropriately.
One attempt by the Department of Transportation to address the issue of speed was the publication of a little-known book entitled Speed Zoning for Highways, Roads, and Streets in Florida. It’s 49 pages that go into great detail on how Florida speed limits should be set. Unfortunately, cities and counties tend not to follow the guidelines in this book because they are too comfortable getting those fat traffic fines paid to help balance their municipal budgets.
Just a few of the facts that I found in this book would greatly change when and how speeding citations would be issued. Traffic ticket attorneys, traffic cameras, and even cops may be out of the picture if municipalities put these facts into action.
1. SPEED ZONE FACT: Driving different speeds causes more accidents than speeding in general. According to the book, when drivers travel the same speed, even if they are speeding, and they are not trying to pass each other, they are less likely to crash. Yet the frequency of crashes increases when people are traveling at different speeds. Many accidents occur while attempting to pass another vehicle. Research has shown that if people didn’t think speed limits were set too low, 85% of drivers would travel at the same speed. This would reduce passing, ergo, reduce accidents. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend trying that argument with a cop or a judge if you get a speeding ticket.
2. SPEED ZONE FACT: If the speed limit is too low for the driving conditions, drivers ignore the limits. Generally, drivers will ignore speed limit signs anyway if they think they are unreasonable, unless they are knowingly going through an area notorious for speed traps.
3. SPEED ZONE FACT: According to the book, the purpose of setting speed zones is NOT to generate money for cities. In a perfect world, this would be true, but this is not a perfect world – it’s Florida. One great statement in the book is, “Uniform traffic control devices do not bring uniform traffic control unless uniform enforcement and uniform traffic laws and ordinances are perceived to be reasonable when applied to these devices and to driver performance.” This is a brilliant statement, yet law enforcement seems intent on ignoring the fact that if laws are reasonable, they would probably be followed. There is too my money to be made by them being unreasonable.
You can download the book in its entirety from the Department of Transportation’s website at: http://www.dot.state.fl.us/TrafficOperations/speedzone/Speed_Zone_Manual.shtm
If the guidelines that are laid out in this book were relied upon, I am certain that there would be much fewer accidents. This book relies on science and some of those same engineers I mentioned earlier to come up ways to try to protect not just drivers, but motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. They, like most of us, work for a living and do not rely on a slice of that monetary pie generated by the traffic ticket grist mill.
Obviously, if these great ideas were implemented, I might have to change my field of practice. The consolation for me, however, would be that there would be less of our Miami-Dade neighbors being injured or killed on the roadways. As for now, I don’t foresee these practices going into action therefore, cops in Miami-Dade will keep cranking out those traffic citations. If you get a speeding ticket or any other type of traffic ticket, I am here to help you, so give me a call at 954-967-9888 for a free consultation.