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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pace car update

WTVD, the local ABC affiliate, is putting a piece together on Durham's Pace Car program. Here's a little background to bring you, ahem, up to speed.

The city of Durham recognizes that it has a problem with speeders. There's a lot of causes of urban speeding, including poor road design which encourages unsafe speeds (think Guess Rd. north of Carver), lack of enforcement resources (i think most of us agree that Durham has other law enforcement priorities at the moment), and a culture which glorifies going as fast as you can pretty much all the time. Just about every car commercial features someone doing a way cool hi speed turn, locking up the front brakes, and spinning the car 360 degrees sideways into the only parking space on the block.

That's where the Pace Car program comes in.

Right now, according to Master Officer Eric Hester of DPD, there are around 450 Pace Car drivers in Durham. We put these yellow magnetic stickers on the backs of our cars, and drive the speed limit when we're out and about, stoppng at red lights and stop signs, yielding to pedestrians, and basically being good citizen motorists. DPD's goal is to sign up 1000 drivers, so in just about 3 months, they're halfway there. I think when everybody who gets in their car to drive to the day care center or the grocery store sees at least one Pace Car sticker on every trip, then we've probably gotten almost enough folks to sign up.

WTVD's Tim Nelson is putting together a segment to look at the program and evaluate its success. And i got to be the community representative. I hope i expressed my thoughts clearly, and i hope both the news piece and the Pace Car program continue to impact people's attitudes when they're behind the wheel. I've already noticed more people stopping for pedestrians, so maybe that's a good sign. The show should air on the first Sunday in May, for sweeps month. I'll post the details when they're confirmed.

Click here for a copy of the Durham Police Department Pace Car enrollment form.

10 Comments:

  • I personally wouldn't mind if every residential street near Duke had speed bumps like a lot of Trinity Park streets do; I guess the TPNA probably lobbied hard for those.

    I'm thinking of signing up to be a pace car. But then I may take out my pent-up road rage on the fine folks of Wake County.

    By Blogger toastie, at 11:32 AM  

  • How about better synchronization of the stoplights? If I drive the speed limit, I get caught at many lights. If I speed like a madman, I can get through almost every stoplight. Guess which way I'm going to drive, especially if I'm in a hurry?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 PM  

  • As long as we're going to have one-way streets, then, yes, stoplights should be synchronized at 30 or 35 mph.

    But here's two experiments you could try.

    Keep a notebook, and see exactly how many lights you actually make by "speeding like a madman." I count numerous occasions when the person next to me at a redlight takes off at 40 or 50 mph on Gregson st and Trinity, and by the time i get to Markham, they're sitting at the redlight waiting for me.

    Second, hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

    See how quickly i kick your ass.

    Who gives a fuck if you're "in a hurry?"Being "in a hurry" doesn't give you any special privileges. It just typifies the selfish car culture that the PACE car program seeks, one driver at a time, to change.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 3:46 PM  

  • Hey Barry, on the subject of traffic issues, whom I can effectively lobby about people who park at street corners where there are clear "no parking" signs? I've tried the daytime parking department (whose agents are contract workers), and I've tried the police (just on the phone, not visiting a substation), and I've seen no evidence of tickets or altered behavior. I've argued to each department that there's going to be an accident at some point because someone's view is going to be obstructed when it shouldn't be.

    PS - does Blogger have an easier word verification scheme (such as math problems)? I must be visually-impaired, because I am constantly getting these wrong. :)

    By Blogger toastie, at 10:21 PM  

  • David - at last nights INC meeting, it was announced that you can take a photo of these kinds of parking violations with a cellphone camera and email them to Durham One-Call via the link at the DurhamNC.gov home page for enforcement.

    No guarantees on how well that process works. I've also been told that Durham contracts out some of its parking enforcement to a private party, but i haven't had much luck with that approach on my block either.

    Regarding the word verification process, i think there's two issues. Besides the weird letters, it seems like there's a time-out process if it takes too long to compose your comments, and then you have to enter a second verification.

    I tried clicking on the wheelchair icon. The audio file you get to enter is completely unusable.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 8:06 AM  

  • Thanks for the info regarding sending photos of parking violations. I suppose if they get inundated enough with the same photos, they'll come out and take a look eventually.

    Your word verification scheme isn't nearly as bad as some others, where the background and random lines obscure the letters. I've also been typing my passwords incorrectly a lot lately, too, so I may have some mental impairment going on as well (and a new keyboard that takes some getting used to).

    PS - Yup, I think it is indeed the timeout that is causing my word verification problems here, because the presentation really isn't too hard to make out.

    By Blogger toastie, at 10:55 AM  

  • I was driving down Roxboro Road this morning when I saw a car with a pace car sticker. The driver was talking on his cellphone. Argh. You'd think he would have wanted to be more careful than usual, as he was also pulling a trailer. I looked at the pace car criteria; cellphone use while driving isn't excluded. Argh.

    I admire the idea behind the pace car program, but I find it a little odd that most of what's on there is stuff drivers are legally bound to do anyway. Argh.

    WRT speed bumps: I'm really getting tired of some of the "traffic calming" stuff I see, especially when I see how preferentially placed it is. Maybe Trinity Park will be turned into a gated community one day, with the gates being run at city expense. Argh.

    By Blogger Joe, at 10:38 AM  

  • Oh, maybe the pace car stickers should go on official vehicles.

    By Blogger Joe, at 11:20 AM  

  • Joe - it might be a good idea to suggest to Eric Hester tht the PACE car agreement be modified to include a ban on cell phone use.

    Regarding where traffic calming devices go, yeah, that's a major problem in Durham. And it's a problem with just about nay city service. Everything is centered around keeping the squeaky wheel greased. I've tried my damnedest to try to get the city to see the advantage of objectively prioritizing traffic calming and pedestrian safety projects. But in the meantime, i've also learned how to squeak pretty loudly.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 12:52 PM  

  • Asking citizens to enforce traffic regulations by becoming rolling speed bumps is a disaster waiting to happen.

    A co-workers car was keyed by someone after they put the sticker on. Just wait until the first road rage incident and something more serious occurs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23 PM  

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