Ignoring The Signs: Residential Road Violations Putting Kids At Risk
SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – Just down the street from a popular South Jordan ice cream shop is Harvest Point Drive. If you’ve ever driven it, you know there are kids just about everywhere.
Kids playing, kids screaming and sometimes, kids venturing out into the street.
This suburban neighborhood is like most in Utah. Residents are kind, welcoming just about everyone – everyone except drivers breaking traffic laws and putting their kids in danger.
The KSL Investigators spent time in the neighborhood and found people are selling their homes and moving because of safety concerns.
Residents Raise Safety Concerns
Becky Gillespie has lived in the neighborhood for several years and can often be seen sitting in her yard, watching her kids play and using her “outside voice” with drivers blowing through stop signs and going too fast.
“Whoaaaaaaa!” Gillespie yelled at one driver. “That’s a stop sign! It’s a real one!”
Minutes later, another driver blew through a stop sign prompting a similar reaction.
“That’s a stop sign!” she screamed. “I know you can hear me!”
To say Gillespie is frustrated was a huge understatement.
Stop signs are visible. Speed limit signs are in place. And no amount of kicking and screaming has solved the problem.
“They’re flipping me off as they’re driving past, knowing I can’t do anything about it,” Gillespie said.
The consensus amongst many of her neighbors was the same.
“Finally, this last summer we put our house up for sale because it was not worth my children’s life anymore,” said Rylee Hannan.
No children have been hit in the neighborhood, but parents said it’s been close.
“We’ve had people pull kids out of the road, who were about to get hit,” Gillespie said.
Over the past couple of years, neighbors said those safety concerns have led to a couple of serious accidents.
A double hit-and-run left two cars with significant damage, indicating the driver was not going slow.
And surveillance video caught a car blow through a stop sign, run over and flatten another stop sign, then blast through a backyard fence narrowly missing a play structure.
No kids were on the playset at the time, but it happened in the middle of the afternoon when neighbors say they often are.
Neighbors Take Safety Concerns To The City
So, with the neighborhood running out of patience, they went to the city of South Jordan.
They called the mayor’s office, showed up to city council meetings and pleaded for something to be done.
“I feel like we’ve had a good relationship with them,” said Jeremy Nielson, South Jordan Deputy City Engineer.
He said when they got the original complaint, it led to a weeklong traffic study in Nov. 2016.
They followed up with a second traffic study in Sept. 2019.
Eighty-five percent of drivers on Harvest Point Drive were going 26-to-28 mph, one-to-three mph over the posted 25 mph speed limit.
That’s nearly 4,000 cars each week.
But during the morning commute, from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., 85% of drivers are going above 30 mph, sometimes, well over: the maximum speed recorded during the 2019 study was 56 mph, clocked at 4:12 p.m. when kids are often outside playing.
The KSL Investigators did our own study, using a radar gun to clock cars at different hours of the day.
Our results were very similar to the results the city got.
The morning rush saw the most violators, with one car topping out at 43 mph and many others in the low 30 mph range.
We even clocked a Utah Highway Patrol trooper going five mph over the limit, just days after announcing a zero-tolerance policy for speeding.
Bottom line, according to what the KSL Investigators observed, most drivers are speeding on Harvest Point Drive.
But when is it excessive enough for the city to take action?
Nielson said the September traffic study “didn’t really meet the city’s threshold for implementing additional traffic control measures.”
Per the manual of uniform traffic control devices, the city tries to keep 85% of drivers within 5 mph of the speed limit, said Nielson.
If it’s above that number throughout all hours of the day, that’s when they look at making adjustments to slow drivers down, such as adding additional stop signs, speed limit signs, radar feedback signs or narrowing the road.
“At this point in time, we’re not planning additional changes,” Nielson said.
The study did prompt officials with the South Jordan Police Department to put more patrols along that section of the road.
While they may not be patrolling as often as some residents would like, with limited resources, police said they target times the study revealed the worst offenders are driving.
Winkler said officers try to be covert and most residents likely don’t see their presence.
“The speeding law is that one mile per hour over,” said Sergeant Sam Winkler with the South Jordan Police Department. “You’re over one, and you will be pulled over and you can receive a citation. Sometimes one or two miles per hour over the speed limit can have dangerous, deadly results.”
Speeding Not The Biggest Concern
But speeding didn’t appear to be the biggest concern.
A complaint three years ago triggered the city to put in more stop signs along this road.
Over the past few years, Winkler said 40% of the tickets on Harvest Point Drive have been handed to drivers blowing through stop signs.
Spend a little time on the street and you can see why.
In one afternoon, the KSL Investigators observed more than 50 cars that either didn’t come to a complete stop or completely ignored the stop signs.
From minivans to work trucks and school buses, we watched as only a handful of vehicles came to a complete stop.
“We have children hit from motorists that try to stop, or thought they stopped, or almost stopped,” Winkler said.
So far, the stop signs and patrols haven’t solved the problem. Residents want greater enforcement and traffic calming devices, such as speed dips or bumps.
While they haven’t gotten everything they wanted, many are satisfied the city has listened and continues to listen.
Both the city and the residents want the same thing: safer streets. And they will continue to find a balance between those concerns and available resources.