Residents will have an opportunity to learn how Farmington Public Safety officers measure vehicle speeds during demonstrations held at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 5, and Wednesday, October 21, on Liberty Street in front of City Hall.
Instructors will explain how officers become certified as speed measurement operators. Residents will have hands-on experiences with the department’s speed measuring devices, then put their skills to test with live, drive-by traffic.
Public Safety Director Frank Demers said during Monday’s city council meeting that residents often see vehicles as traveling much faster than measurements with radar or LIDAR, a laser speed tool, would show.
“We want to explain to the public how we measure speed and how we enforce speed and show them these aren’t just tools we use to shoot our laser at an oncoming car,” he said.
Shiawassee speed study
In a July 30-August 8 speed study, conducted with a portable speed sign, the department found vehicles traveled an average speed of 22.9 miles per hour on Shiawassee between Farmington Road and Grand River. Demers said that another complaint prompted the department to deploy the sign again, but in “ghost mode” with no display. From August 20 through September 5, the average speed was 25.46 miles per hour.
“There were some excessive speeds recorded, but the vast majority of vehicles were traveling at or near that 25-mile-per-hour speed limit,” he said, adding some speeders may have been emergency vehicles.
Council member Steven Schneemann said the higher speed in ghost mode still meant half the drivers were exceeding the limit. He asked that the department take a look at lowering the threshold for pulling over drivers.
“If the average was 22 or 20, I would feel much more comfortable,” he said.
Demers said the 50th percentile recorded was 25 miles per hour, while the 85th percentile, used by county and state officials in establishing speed limits, was 28.5 miles per hour.
“Of course I’d like to see it lower, but I’m actually pretty happy with that, especially when the drivers were not given forewarning about their oncoming speed,” he said. “At least that’s in the ballpark.”
Demers said that ballpark is also a sliding scale. Officers typically stop vehicles at 7-10 miles per hour over the limit, depending on location. On Freedom Road at Halsted, where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour, a driver might not be stopped at 8 miles per hour over the limit.
“You’re not going to get the same response downtown, where the limit is 25 miles per hour and there’s pedestrian traffic,” Demers said.
Demers encouraged residents to quickly report speeding in their neighborhoods. They can make a complaint anonymously, and officers will respond. Even if a speeder is gone when officers arrive, residents can make a complaint that results in a citation, he said.
Demers explains in this video how officers enforce speed in Farmington: