By Rebecca Gaunt
The effort to create a walkable city may mean lower speed limits on roads with a disproportionate amount of traffic citations if further analysis supports the police department’s recommendation to lower Big Shanty Drive from 35 mph to 25 and Duncan Drive from 30 to 25 mph.
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Kennesaw resident Michael Fincher was fed up enough to circulate a petition amongst homeowners in the Pine Hill community. He reported that drivers often speed and fail to stop at stop signs along Big Shanty Drive and Duncan Drive.
Duncan Drive also has a sharp turn in which drivers are more likely to lose control.
Lt. Joe Morgan of the Kennesaw Police Department told the City Council Tuesday that he agreed with Fincher and his neighbors after conducting field research and asking the department’s crime analyst Bayleigh Brown to research the statistics for those areas.
“[Fincher] and his neighbors, they walk along the sidewalk near the roadway. They have children. They walk their dogs. They ride their bicycles. And they’re concerned that cars are speeding and not properly stopping at the stop signs,” Morgan said.
According to Brown’s research, traffic citations on Big Shanty Drive make up nearly 3% of all citations in Kennesaw. There were 714 issued in the past two years.
Big Shanty Drive generated 521 traffic stops compared to Ben King Road, which has the same posted speed limit but only had 270 stops.
“There’s definitely some traffic concerns on that roadway,” Morgan said.
Field research over the course of three days at different times of the day revealed that the majority of vehicles traveling through the intersection of Big Shanty and Pine Hill Drive failed to come to a complete stop.
Councilman Pat Ferris voiced his opposition, saying people ignore the posted signs. He also called the stop signs, which he said were put up when he wasn’t on the council, a “great revenue source.”
“I’ve heard your statistics and all that good stuff, but honestly, having lived there, doing yard work, watching traffic flow…I’m not seeing the speeding,” said Ferris. “It seems like our answer to everything is to lower speed limits.”
The rest of the council was more receptive.
“My feeling was we’ve been trying to build a walkable downtown and that is in the CBD [central business district] now, and I think we need to get in the habit of slowing down and being safe and caring about people,” said Councilwoman Tracey Viars.
With the go-ahead from the mayor and council, the Kennesaw Police Department will do a more intensive study and return with recommendations at a future date.
“I think it’s time, considering we are trying to create a walkable downtown. We are more interested in the safety of our citizens whether they are driving or walking or riding,” said Mayor Derek Easterling.
Police Chief Bill Westengberger also responded to Ferris’ comments.
“I just want to clarify publicly that the police department, we’re in the business to try to keep the road safe and save lives. I understand there’s a financial collection point on the fines, but that is not our orientation,” he said.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.