Slow Down in Our Town
Driving down Grovers Mill or Dey Road, especially on times when there seem to be very few cars around, even the most experienced and patient drivers are tempted to speed past the limit and become distracted by music or fellow passengers. However, as the Plainsboro Police Department and various traffic agencies have noted, these situations when the driver is not paying attention to their surroundings can become extremely dangerous. Working in collaboration with county and state traffic officials, the police department agrees that it’s time to Slow Down in Our Town.
As the county website notes, Slow Down in Our Town is a “speed reduction program in partnership between neighbourhood residents and local law enforcement, working together to coordinate placement of lawn signs in targeted neighbourhoods.” The program is organized by the Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program, with support from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, and is implemented by township law enforcement officials. Along with Plainsboro, the program has already been launched in other Middlesex townships such as Jamesburg.
The program was created through a county “Design-A-Sign” K-12 contest, where students were asked to create designs for signs that could address speeding and aggressive driving in residential areas. The winning design submitted by Destiny Griggs from Monroe Township, a student at the Middlesex County Technical and Vocational High School in East Brunswick, is bright yellow and displays two children playing with a ball. The slogan ‘Slow Down in Our Town’ was submitted by Michelle Levash of North Brunswick Township.
Patrolman Brandon Ullom, an officer in the Plainsboro Police Department for the past four years, explains the implementation process. “We are coming up with a schedule for locations to place the signs. These target areas will be where our patrol and traffic officers have identified areas of high speeding or aggressive driving, or areas where we get multiple complaints from residents.”
“We then reach out to residents for their permission to put these signs on their lawns, and so we get the community involved in the program,” he added.
Based on this schedule, the department will use it’s 20 signs for the program, and place them in identified locations for one to two weeks. These signs are not permanent so that a lower amount can be used efficiently throughout the town, but more importantly, because various studies have shown that permanently erected signs become so commonplace that most motorists ignore them. “If you drive to work everyday on the same route, and something changes on that route, you’ll notice it. That’s the intention of these signs, especially with the bright yellow color, to catch the driver’s attention and have them reconsider if they’re going too fast,” Ullom said.
“The design of the sign itself also sticks out, because it shows the two children and a dog playing with a ball with an oncoming vehicle, which can represent anyone playing in their front yards or on their streets,” he added.
The program was launched in Plainsboro on June 26th, on the corner of Edgemere and Parkway Avenue, also the first location for the sign. “During the launch, we invited the town council members, the mayor, and other administrators. We had a small meet-and-greet with Dave McGregor, the coordinator for the Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program.
Along with support from various traffic safety agencies and township officials, Ullom emphasizes the importance of community support and engagement. Residents are directly involved in the program, whether it be through filing complaints for traffic violations, giving permission to have the sign on their lawns, or to themselves become more cautious when driving. “I believe this program will really help get the community involved,” They will feel like they’re given the opportunity to do something about their (own safety, as well as the safety of their fellow residents),” Ullom said.
So far, the response from Plainsboro residents has been quite supportive. “We advertised the program launch on our social media accounts, and we’ve already had very positive feedback from residents through comments and messages,” he added.
Even though Ullom mentions that the traffic violation rates in the township have remained relatively consistent since he joined, he explains the need for innovative traffic safety programs in Plainsboro. “A lot of our complaints are for speeders and aggressive driving in residential areas. We try to go out and catch as many aggressive drivers as we can, but there’s only so much we can do ourselves, so we thought this would be a good program to put in place in our township.”
Specifically, through the regular movement of the signs and the design itself, Ullom believes the program can be highly effective. “I believe the most important part of the program is to get the driver’s attention. Nowadays, drivers might be distracted by their phone or their passengers, so this sign will grab their attention and remind them that it’s their job to be a good driver and to slow down. I believe this program will help with safety, whether it be pedestrian or motor vehicle safety, and remind drivers to be responsible.”
The Slow Down in Our Town program will continue in Plainsboro through at least 2018, if not further. Along with this program, the police department looks to improve safety in the township through pedestrian grants, which fund the police department efforts to curb pedestrian violations.
The Middlesex County Comprehensive Traffic Safety Program also implements other programs to improve safety. These include M.C.O.P (Middlesex County On Patrol/My Community On Patrol), which trains county workers to use existing radios and frequencies to report crime and violations, and New Jersey D.R.I.V.E (Driver Response Impaired Vision Exercise), an interactive program utilizing police golf carts and a specifically designed course to educate teenage drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence.
For more information about these program, please visit: http://www.middlesexcountynj.gov/Government/Departments/IM/Pages/Road-Safety-Programs.aspx.
To reach out to the Plainsboro Police Department, please call 609-799-2333.
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