Improving Neighborhood Traffic Safety

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Janesville residents care a lot about their neighborhoods, especially when it comes to keeping them safe.  Concern with traffic safety and speeding often came up as an area of significant concern at neighborhood meetings.  The City receives many questions about whether installing stop signs, traffic signals, or changing the speed limit might help to improve traffic safety.  What often seems like a simple way to make streets safer may in fact not be - and that's because of good old-fashioned human behavior.  Please click here to view "Improving Neighborhood Traffic Safety", a brochure of FAQs about traffic safety, speeding, the use of stop signs and speed bumps, etc. 

When the City Engineering Division staff receives a request to install signs, signals, or change a speed limit, they study and carefully evaluate the traffic situation.  They examine roadway conditions, how much traffic and how many pedestrians there are, how fast traffic is traveling, and accident records.  If a change appears justified, the request is considered by the Transportation Committee and ultimately City Council.

Little-Known Truths About Speeding & Stop Signs

A common belief is that drivers comply with the speed limit where it is posted.  The facts indicate otherwise. Studies conducted throughout the country show that drivers are influenced more by the surface of the roadway and existing traffic conditions than by the posted speed limit.  Since studies show that most motorists drive at a speed which they consider to be reasonable and safe under existing roadway conditions, the more reasonable the speed limit is, the more likely it will be complied with.  If a posted speed limit is lower than is needed to travel safely, many drivers will simply ignore the signs and the average speed will likely be higher.  In 1994, the City increased speed limits on some major streets to more accurately reflect prevailing speeds.  Actual driver speeds on those streets, however, remained nearly the same as before the posted limits were changed. 

At the same time, some drivers will stay with the posted limit.  This generally causes conflict between faster and slower traffic, creates fewer gaps in traffic when pedestrians can cross safely, and it becomes difficult for pedestrians to judge the speed of approaching vehicles.  Studies also show that where uniformity of speed is not maintained, the frequency of accidents generally increases.  Therefore, unrealistically low limits can create a false sense of security for neighborhood residents and travelers and actually result in reduced safety and caution.

Residents may request a stop sign or signal believing that it will help solve a speeding problem.  Intersections that are uncontrolled (that is, where there are no stop signs, yield signs or traffic signals) may appear unreasonably dangerous.  However, installing a stop sign to slow traffic can cause high incidences of intentional violations and also higher speeds a half block from the stop signs than they were before the sign was installed.  Also, some drivers and particularly bicyclists tend to disregard stop signs, especially where a stop does not appear to be necessary.  Motorists on the through street usually pay less attention to traffic on the stop-sign-controlled intersecting streets.  So when a less attentive motorist meets a stop-sign-ignoring one, there is a great potential for accidents.

In most residential areas in Janesville, the speed limit is not posted but all Wisconsin drivers are expected to know it is 25 miles per hour.  The 25-mile-per-hour limit is posted to indicate a change when entering some residential areas from a higher-speed major street.

Police Services works hard to monitor areas of the city where traffic and speeding is known to be a problem, and where residents have contacted the department with a concern.  You may have also seen the new "speed trailer" at various places around the city which displays how fast an oncoming vehicle is traveling.  It is placed where speeding has been identified as a problem or where citizens expressed concern.  The trailer has a self-contained radar unit that detects speed and a computer that tracks speeds over time.  It collects data and also helps educate and build awareness by making drivers realize how fast they are actually going.

All police officers are expected to enforce traffic laws while on patrol.  Upon the request of citizens, a directed patrol may be assigned to observe an area of concern, report on findings, and make recommendations.  In 2004, 7,483 traffic citations were given by Janesville police and of these 1,242 were for speeding.  More speeding citations are issued than any other type of traffic citation.

Setting reasonable limits, posting limit speed signs where needed, enforcement, and public information can be more effective than changing a speed limit or installing a stop sign where it is not justified by study of the traffic situation.  During a study, alternative measures may be found that would help improve safety, such as trimming trees or hedges, restricting parking, or marking pavement.  Ultimately, while the Police and Engineering Division are happy to investigate your concerns about speeding and neighborhood traffic, there is no substitute for driver caution and common sense.  We all need to remember to drive safely.  If you would like to discuss your traffic safety concerns, please call the Engineering Division.

What streets in Janesville are considered "Truck Routes"?

To check the truck routes, pleases click here for the truck route map.  For more information, contact the Engineering Traffic Engineer at 755-3160.

Who do I contact with parking problems?

Please call the Engineering Division at 755-3160 for assistance by the Traffic Engineer regarding any parking concerns or problems.

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