Earlier this week, southbound motorists on Buena Vista Boulevard approaching The Villages Polo Club came across an unoccupied Sumter County Sheriff’s patrol car parked in the median.
Some tapped their brakes, but a few more tested the posted 35 mph limit there — until they went another few hundred feet to see two deputies pointing radar devices in their direction.
Sheriff’s deputies here, like many others in law enforcement, are cracking down on speeders. But it’s not because they’re hiding, trying to trick or trap you so they can make money off your speeding ticket. In fact, they’d prefer to toss the citation book if they could, but their enforcement is needed to protect all of us. Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer’s deputies found it necessary to issue more than 2,100 traffic citations so far this year, including nearly 250 for speeding and almost 200 more for careless driving. His office has just completed a speeding enforcement campaign with a slogan of “obey the sign or pay the fine,” but traffic enforcement never takes a day off.
Sheriff’s Lt. Christopher Thibodeau tells us there is very scientific analysis done when determining a road’s or street’s posted speed limit, looking at numerous criteria. In a nutshell, that study determines what the roadway is capable of handling in terms of vehicle speed in 85th percentile occasions. Thus, it’s important to follow that speed limit for safety reasons.
But for all of us, there is another bit of scientific research that is highly more relevant, and much easier to understand based on traffic crash data — as speeding increases, so does the risk of more vehicle damage, injuries and fatalities.
Those posted speed limits have one primary purpose, according to Thibodeau.
“Mitigate or reduce the number of crashes,” he said.
It’s been a tough year-plus for everyone during the COVID-pandemic, which Thibodeau and fellow deputies are compassionate about. But they’ve noticed something that has them concerned. When people were sheltering in place or minimizing their travel, they witnessed what few motorists were out on the roads had increased their speeds, ignoring speed limits. And even though the economy and everyone’s mobility are picking back up, “we really haven’t seen that decrease” Thibodeau said of speeding violators.
Thus, deputies are making themselves more visible as a reminder to watch speed, and then issuing warnings or citations, if it’s necessary, again in the name of safety for all of us. He’s heard the myths, like “they only issue tickets to make money” for the sheriff’s office. Only a small fraction of a ticket’s revenue reaches the county’s coffers.
There is another myth — the majority of speeders are out-of-towners or seasonal residents who don’t live here year-round. “That is definitely a myth,” Thibodeau said.
And one more falsity is you have a good 5 mph or so cushion over the speed limit before deputies will stop you.
“That speed limit is there for a reason,” he tells us. “If you’re going 1 mph over in a school zone or construction zone, there is a good chance you might get a ticket.”
Obeying the speed limit is particularly important in areas in which there are what Thibodeau calls “vulnerable road users,” such as seniors, golf carts and bicycles.
“Around vulnerable road users, that enforcement is very important,” he said.
We tip our caps to law enforcement working to make our roadways safe. Each one of us can work with law enforcement by reminding the person on the left-center side of rearview mirror to keep speeds in check.