DI drivers are going too fast, according to student study
Daniel Island is a unique place to live because almost everything within the town is accessible with a quick walk or bike ride. The problem is, as a recent traffic study conducted by two Daniel Island School eighth graders found, on average, most drivers on Seven Farms Drive and Daniel Island Drive disobey the speed limit creating a potentially dangerous environment for both pedestrians and drivers.
As a part of their eighth grade science fair project, students Connor Fitzpatrick and Nolan Ramirez took a closer look at the two busy streets to see what could be done to address this problem. On Seven Farms Drive, they focused on the area in between the Family Circle Tennis Center and the Publix Shopping Center, and on Daniel lsland Drive, they evaluated the area near MUSC Health Stadium. Partnering with the City of Charleston Police Department’s Team 5, the boys hoped to discover if a police presence would affect a driver’s speed.
“The boys showed creativity and dedication in what they took very seriously,” said Lt. James Byrne, Team 5 commander. “It’s nice to be able to see that other people have an interest in maintaining safety on the roadways of Daniel Island along with us. I’m not going to lie, it’s nice when I can get the statistical evidence from eighth graders to show my officers that they need to be out the
re writing tickets.”
By testing four different variables throughout a total of 16 tests—four tests in each lane at both locations—Fitzpatrick and Ramirez found that their hypothesis was correct. The higher the police presence, the lower the speeds. The baseline tests were conducted using no controls on everyday traffic. The second tests measured the speeds with an empty police car present. The third tests measured the speeds with a police car present with the lights on. Finally, the final tests measured the drivers’ speeds with a police officer actively tracking vehicles.
“The speed limit for Seven Farms Drive is 25 mph, but the average speed with no police presence was around 29 to 30 miles per hour,” said Fitzpatrick. “It took until the last of our four tests, including the baseline test, to actually get the average speed below the speed limit. For Daniel Island Drive, where the speed limit is 35 mph, people were a lot more likely to follow the speed limit. In the baseline test, they were only slightly over by a few decibels…The speeds never rose compared to the last test. Each method was more efficient.”
Throughout all of the tests, the fastest speeds were collected when there was no police presence, added Fitzpatrick. For Daniel Island Drive, the fastest speed was clocked around 45 mph, 10 mph above the speed limit. For Seven Farms Drive, the fastest speed calculated was a shocking 39 mph, 14 mph above the speed limit.
While these numbers may not seem high to the typical driver, according to statistics from the United Kingdom Department of Transportation that were utilized during Fitzpatrick’s and Ramirez’s project, if struck by a car traveling at only 30 miles per hour, a pedestrian has a 45 percent chance of death and 50 percent chance of injury. And at 40 mph, the death rate rises to 95 percent.
“This is where most of our catalogued cars fell,” said Fitzpatrick. “Most of the speeders on Seven Farms Drive would have killed someone. On Daniel Island Drive, where the speed limit is 35, I would suggest lowering the speed limit there so if people were to get hit, they wouldn’t be injured so badly.”
In order to combat this problem, Fitzpatrick and Ramirez presented several solutions that Team 5 could implement, including posting more speed limit signs across the island, increasing officer presence, and the addition of a pedestrian-only stoplight on Seven Farms Drive.
“…There should be a dedicated speed board on Seven Farms Drive, especially during events and at important locations, like near Governors Park or Volvo Tennis Center (Family Circle Tennis Center),” said Fitzpatrick. “Another good suggestion would be to initiate routine ticketing. If people see people getting ticketed, they will be less likely to speed because they will also feel like they are going to get ticketed…There should be a pedestrian-only stoplight, which means it’ll only turn red if there is a pedestrian. That would not only serve to make sure that pedestrians are safer crossing the street, but if it does turn red, it’ll cause the average speed to decrease because people will have to stop.”
The project completed by Fitzpatrick and Ramirez was one out of the 11 winners for the eighth grade DIS science fair.
“This project really just goes to show how much speed is affected by police presence,” added Byrne. “What I would suggest as a take away from this is people know that they need to slow down both to follow the law and because it is safer. When you guys are driving, don’t let it be a factor only when the police are visible. Remind yourself that that is the right thing to do regardless.”