CUMMING — It’s not a new phenomenon, but cars speeding through neighborhoods — whizzing past kids who may be playing in a yard or a couple walking their dog — remain a concern of many Forsyth County residents.
There may be options through the county’s engineering department that can dilute the number and severity of drivers who speed through residential areas, but they come with guidelines. First among those is that a majority of property owners want the same solution.
In 1996, the county adopted a speed hump policy similar to that of neighboring Gwinnett, according to Tim Allen, assistant director of traffic and transportation in Forsyth’s engineering department.
Allen said while speed humps can directly cause drivers to slow down, less than 5 percent of studies on neighborhoods that were interested in installing them showed they were warranted.
On local, two-way residential streets that handle less than 3,000 vehicles per day, and with a speed limit of 30 mph or lower, a traffic study can be conducted by the engineering department if a homeowners association writes a letter.
Data from the traffic study must show that 85 percent of the vehicles that travel on the road go 11 miles over the speed limit. Most neighborhoods have posted limits of 25 mph, so 85 percent of drivers would have to be going 36 mph or faster.
“That’s hard to get in a subdivision,” Allen said.
But it doesn’t end there. If speed humps are warranted, the neighborhood still must vote on whether it wants them installed.
If the neighborhood has an HOA, only a majority of the property owners must approve speed humps. Without an association, 70 percent must do so.
There is no speed hump budget in the county, Allen said. But if the study warrants them, a funding request can be taken to the county commission, which has always said yes. He said the last time the county put any in was a few years ago.
Installation costs between $3,200 and $3,300 and the county is still in charge of maintaining the road afterward, according to Allen. Speed humps do not affect whether a county road can be resurfaced.
If a study does not warrant speed humps, there are other options.
Multi-way stops are the most recommended option for internal streets and subdivisions. They can be spaced no more than 400 feet apart from a speed hump or other stop sign.
“They have to leave them in for six months, then they can request another study if the problem isn’t fixed,” Allen said.
Another option is to use splitter islands, which puts traffic into one-way segments. Islands on the side of the curb can reduce a lane’s width, which usually slows traffic. Roundabouts and raised sidewalks are also “traffic-calming measures.”
Radar speed limit signs can be placed and moved throughout neighborhoods. They are solar powered and have an initial cost of $3,200.
Allen said they do raise awareness of speeding, but seem to be the most successful when speed limits are lower to begin with. Drivers have more time to see the sign and their speed if they’re driving in a 25-mph zone.
Concerned residents can always file a traffic complaint on the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office website. According to Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the agency, traffic is the No. 1 “complaint generator” on the site.
The state has to approve all roads that deputies can monitor by radar.
Streets that fall under a radar enforcement permit — usually bigger, through-roads — can receive extra patrols if people are concerned about speeding.
“If [your street] is not approved [by the state],” Rainwater said, “we’ll call back and tell you. If the traffic unit gets busy, [complaints] still go to other deputies.”