To the Editor: Speeding on Jarmans Gap Road

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Speeding on Jarmans Gap Road

I got a speeding ticket. I’m guilty. I was speeding. It was on Jarmans Gap Rd. at 6 in the evening. I was not in a hurry, just driving home to Crozet from a nice ice cream visit at Chiles orchard. I was talking with my wife and failed to slow down quickly enough when entering the new section of road. I’m not claiming I was cited in error. Lest the reader think I’m a young buck with a lead foot, I’ve been driving for nearly five decades and have logged over half a million miles behind the wheel. I have been cited for moving violations six or seven times, the most serious for speeding, and most in my first ten years of driving. I haven’t questioned or complained about the rationale for any of them.

I do, however, feel that there is something akin to entrapment taking place at the transition from the old, narrow, 40 mph, Jarmans Gap Road to the new, wide, 25 mph section. Not the legal definition of entrapment but certainly exploitation of human nature, perception and psychology. One transitions from a narrow, unmarked road with no shoulders, no sidewalks, no bike lanes, no center line and no edge markings, to a new, wide, clearly marked road with all of the above mentioned safety features.  The new section of road is obviously designed and engineered to be safe at a much higher rate of speed than the old section, or at the very least to be much safer than the old section at the same 40 mph speed limit.

One must question why the speed limit is set so low. I assume it was due to the higher population density. However, if the 25 mph limit is due to more houses, the citation would be for the more serious infraction of speeding in a residential area. It is not; it is simply speeding.

There are a few issues for me regarding this citation and they tend to revolve around the gap between the law and justice. All appearances are that the very low speed limit and vigorous enforcement are about revenue not safety. This is not just my opinion. It’s the opinion of multiple friends and neighbors I’ve spoken to about my experience. Without exception, the response from other people has been, “well, they have to pay for that new road,” or “they (the police) have to make quotas.” Not one person has indicated that they think the motivation is safety. No doubt it is safer to drive 25 mph; if the speed limit on I-64 was set at 25 mph, accident rates would plummet and fatal accidents would be virtually eliminated.

I now reduce my speed to 25 mph immediately upon entering the lowered speed zone. Going from 40 to 25 upon entering a wider, more modern roadway has the effect of feeling like one is walking, exactly what psychologists and highway engineers predict.

On a recent trip down Jarmans Gap Road, I entered the lower speed zone with no cars behind me. By the time I reached Crozet Ave, I was leading a parade of 9 vehicles, some, it seemed, driven by then-irritated people.

Yes, I was speeding when I was cited, but the citation makes no distinction between driving at a dangerously high speed and exceeding an apparently arbitrary speed limit, not one related to the safe limits of road design and conditions.

The fine is just the least of it and would not be all that onerous. However that is not the only consequence. There is the potential increase in insurance rates. In my case (I’m seeking employment), I can now eliminate, for three years, job prospects that stipulate, “clean driving record required.” In the case of drivers holding commercial drivers licenses, there are also potentially serious employment consequences.

But the most problematic outcome of this situation, in my opinion, is the effect on public perception and opinion. Along with the stated public perception of dubious motivation for such vigorous enforcement of a questionable safety issue, comes the erosion of respect for the law and law enforcement. The stated disbelief that safety is the primary concern damages the relationship between law enforcement and the community, undermines police credibility and the spirit of partnership so critical to effective citizen/police cooperation. Questions about resource allocation in a climate of limited and stretched manpower raise doubts regarding administrative policy and judgment. Whatever the reason for this situation on Jarmans Gap Road, the price is enormous. These are not my opinions, but those shared with me in the aftermath of my encounter.

If the 25 mph speed limit on the new wider section of Jarmans Gap Rd. reflects the reasonable safe limit of the road’s design, then certainly the limit on the older narrower section devoid of the safety features found on the newer section should be reduced to 25 mph as well.  If the 40 mph speed limit on the old section is in keeping with modern safety standards, then the 25 mph limit on the new section is unreasonably low and should be raised. I would be prepared to wager the number of citations written per hundred cars observed on this new section of Jarmans Gap Rd. far exceeds the average for almost any comparable road in the county. If this assertion is correct, then I believe some change in the posted speed limits and/or enforcement efforts are in order.

Ken Girasek
Crozet

 

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