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Killingworth Spies on Speeders

Chairman of Traffic Safety Committee says the town is using technology to track speeders, calls problem "epidemic."

Killingworth Spies on Speeders

In Killingworth the roads have eyes.

But whether the gaze of what some might consider big brother will actually slow drivers down, that's a different story.

Several recent accidents, including an Aug. 4 wreck that involved a local  without slowing down, as well as a number of speeding complaints, has highlighted the fact that Killingworth has a dangerous dilemma on its hands. Or, more appropriately, along its roads.

"We're a society in a hurry. People are consistently late or on the way from one appointment to another, with activities for the kids, on top of that you add on things like driving while distracted. It's a many tentacle monster," explains Bob Ellis when asked about the town's recent scrapes with speed fixated drivers.

Ellis, who chairs the town's traffic safety committee, says the town is caught between maintaining its rural charm -- which includes about 72 miles of often windy, narrow roads -- and providing public safety.

Recent data collected by the committee indicates that speeding is the norm in Killingworth, and not, as one might expect drivers to declare in the embarrassment of being caught going too fast, a brief lapse in judgement.

"The average speed in town is about 37 miles an hour, on a 25 mile an hour road, so automatically they're speeding," explains Ellis, who says the committee has recently seen an increase in the number of residents downright angry over the apparent need for speed.

One of those residents, John Ghiroli, who lives on Roast Meat Hill Road, was so disheartened by the , which was struck and killed by a car in June, he brought his entire family to a meeting last month to demonstrate the tragic consequences of speeding.

"It's a problem. I don't like to use the word "issue" because I don't think it's strong enough. It's epidemic," says Ellis, who himself admits to raising the ire of drivers simply by maintaining the speed limit.

"They call me old man," he said of his neighbors.

Operating as detectives on the case of the at-large speeder, the all-volunteer committee has begun collecting evidence using a small black box — a device known as a SpeedSpy.

"They're strictly passive units. All it does is record the volume of traffic and the speed of that traffic," Ellis says about the device, which gets mounted to a telephone poll. "It gives you the time of day, day of the week, your peak hours, maximum speeds, minimum speeds, average speeds. All it does is gather data."

The data speaks volumes.

In roughly four months, just over 10,500 vehicles passed a SpeedSpy device located along a stretch of Roast Meat Hill Road -- a road Ellis says is used by many drivers as an alternate route to avoid the Route 80/81 rotary.

All but 400 of the drivers exceeded the speed limit (25mph), according to the data. More staggering is the actual average speed of drivers: 38 miles per hour.

Of the seven town roads under close scrutiny by the committee, only on Chittenden Road did more than 25 percent of drivers obey the speed limit. On Lovers Lane -- -- more than 97 percent of drivers broke the speed limit of 20 mph. On average, drivers sped along the road at 37 miles per hour.

Ellis says the real benefit of using the SpeedSpy is being able to extract specific information, like dates and times, which gives police a better chance to catch speeders.

"[Resident Trooper Matthew Ward] was down on Roast Meat Hill Road the week before last. He wrote 10 tickets and four warnings in a matter of three hours," after looking at the data, Ellis says.

But, Ellis warns, the epidemic can not be solved by enforcement alone.

"Traffic enforcement isn't the only job of that person. They've got the DARE program, we've had a spate of burglaries in town recently. There's just a whole litany of things they're involved in," he said about the town's only law enforcement official.

First Selectman Cathy Iino echoed Eliis' approach, encouraging residents to pick up signs that read "drive like your kids live here," which are available for check-out at the Killingworth Library.

"Signs like that, they're good tools. But once you see it, you see it a second time, a third time, your mind starts to blank it out," Ellis said, suggesting that residents who do use the signs move them from time to time.

Overwhelmed by grief and frustration, Ghiroli has opted for a hands on approach. He recently purchased a radar gun, which he and his wife use to track the speed of cars passing by.

Iino is cautious about residents taking matters into their own hands.

"I worry about safety," she said. "We need everybody's eyes and ears out there. If they can talk to their friends and neighbors. We just need to sort of change the culture."

Ellis agrees, but he's less optimistic that drivers are willing to change.

"I think you've got a serious attitude problem. If you call somebody on the fact that they're speeding, you're going to get anger, you're going to get threats."

Editor's Note: Earlier this week Killingworth's Board of Selectman approved a proposal by the Traffic Safety Committee to install a stop sign at the intersection of Roast Meat Hill Road and Stevens Road. First Selectman Cathy Iino said while the town does not install stop signs as a means of speed control the sign is expected to slow drivers in this area. The sign will be installed later this summer she said.

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