Reducing speed limit could kill someone, NJ senator says
Legislation isn't always the answer, even when it's in response to a tragedy.
So says the only state senator who voted against a proposed law crafted in response to the tragic death of a teenager in 2016. He hopes "enough Assembly members with enough backbone" do the same Monday.
If approved by the full Assembly, Antwan's Law is headed to Gov. Phil Murphy's desk for his action.
The bill permanently reduces the speed limit to 25 mph along Route 130 near Burlington City High School and Wilbur Watts Intermediate School. Currently, the speed limit in those areas is reduced when children are visibly present, and is otherwise 40 mph.
In May 2016, 17-year-old Antwan Timbers was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver while walking along the notoriously dangerous roadway just after midnight.
The general 40 mph speed limit, the bill states, is too high and needs to be reduced in the interest of public safety.
State Sen. Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, who was on the lonely side of the 34-1 vote in April to advance the measure out of the full Senate, disagrees.
"You will make that stretch of roadway less safe if this law passes," O'Scanlon told New Jersey 101.5. "You could have someone killed because of this well-intentioned but ill-informed effort."
O'Scanlon said not one traffic engineer would believe this legislation is a good idea. Speed limits are set using scientific data, and not on a whim, he said.
"Speed limits are set at the 85th-percentile speed, which is the speed at or below which 85 percent of drivers are traveling on a given road," O'Scanlon said. "If you arbitrarily lower them, you have the potential to cause more harm and more accidents because motorists traveling at the speed they believe to be safe could come into contact with motorists attempting to obey an arbitrarily low speed."
O'Scanlon said the 85th-percentile method achieves the greatest amount of compliance, the greatest amount of safety, the smoothest and safest traffic flow, and the least amount of punishment.
The speed limit reduction, O'Scanlon said, could increase the likelihood that the area becomes a speed trap where cops nab countless drivers for driving too fast.
The measure would triple the fine for speeding along the portions of Route 130 that are addressed.
The Tri-State Transportation Campaign named Route 130 the most dangerous roadway in New Jersey each year from 2011 to 2015. Since 2009, it has never ranked lower than second.
The death of Timbers, O'Scanlon noted, had nothing to do with the school zone — it involved a drunk driver and occurred in the middle of the night.
"A legislator's job isn't simply to say 'yes' to every passionate whim, no matter how bad the tragedy was that inspired it," he said. "Our jobs are much more nuanced than that. Sometimes we have to educate rather than placate."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.