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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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People don’t like being woken up

By Christine Sullivan

Being human, I can appreciate that many people are resistant to change. How often is our first response to something new to say we don't like it? Or, of something different, to say it's ugly? I won't comment on the esthetics of the new radar feedback signs except to say beauty is in the eye of the beholder (witness the debate in New Jersey over the unsightliness of solar panels installed on already existing utility poles). But, I will comment on the functionality: They work.

For some of us, life in a quaint country village involves being able to walk or bike to school safely. The reality is that except in rare instances the school buses do not conveniently stop at our doors and at times that work for families. We are also free to choose this option for a variety of other reasons which we need not discuss. The roads are not just for cars and trucks. However, woe to the pedestrian, bicyclist or horseback rider who operates under this assumption. For every courteous and responsible driver, there are others who forget a vehicle could be the means of destruction for the non-motorized users they encounter on the roads.

When drivers obey traffic laws it improves the quality of life for residents living along the roads which they drive. It makes our village more charming and quaint because it is a safer place for every user. Ultimately, it makes it a more desirable place to live. Up to now our run-of-the-mill speed limit signs haven't always been effective. While drivers are supposed to scan the road for other users and obstacles and check their speed against the posted limits, a lot of people don't pay attention. This is evidenced by the fact that paid contractors installed 35 mph signs at the radar feedback sights after they had passed the regularly posted speed limit signs on the way to and leaving these sights. Didn't they notice that this was not the posted speed limit in any of the areas where the radar feedback signs are located? If anyone notices, shouldn't they? Weren't they paying attention?

There are countless situations when drivers approach pedestrians, bicyclists and horseback riders too fast and without a wide enough berth for their speed. The non-motorized users have to assume drivers aren't paying attention and be prepared to react because a pedestrian, bicyclist or horseback rider loses in a collision. You hope drivers see you and respond to your presence on the road in a safe way, yet in my time living here, while visibly pregnant, walking children in strollers and otherwise, I have been buzzed by vehicles moving at excessive speeds. On more than one occasion I have come close to being hit by drivers going through intersections after not having looked for pedestrians on their right as they should.

Obviously, we can't ameliorate all these situations with blinking signs. It would be nice if there was no need to. It is reasonable that we want to do so in the areas where drivers are more likely to encounter children, who after all are the users of the road less schooled in the way things actually work. At the very least these signs should be operational at the most appropriate times, when children are traveling to and from school. It would be nice if drivers were always responsible enough to obey posted speed limits with no reminders. That does not always happen. However, when people speed on their approach to these signs and get the blinking feedback they slow down. I can understand if people don't like being "woken up" by a blinking number. But, if this makes all other users of the road safer, then these signs will have served an invaluable purpose.

Sullivan lives in Waitsfield.



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