Slow Down Farmington
Written by Nate Duckett
Farmington City Council Dist. 4,
This article is part of a project of the local Community Health Improvement Council (CHIC). Health Councils were created statewide in conjunction with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) with the goal of getting local citizens and county governments more involved in the manner in which health might be improved in each of their communities. The local CHIC is conducting an ongoing awareness campaign addressing the various areas that can potentially affect a person’s health. December has been devoted to the Slow Down Farmington campaign.
There is no doubt by now that you have read about, watched a video of, heard a radio show comment on, or seen the Slow Down Farmington yard signs posted in front yards through out the city. This community awareness and safety campaign was initiated by concerned Farmington residents who were witnessing a continued disregard by drivers of the posted speed limits in their neighborhoods, through school zones, and by our city parks. Seeking solutions that did not require us to put speed bumps on every neighborhood street, or post a police officer with a radar gun at every corner, prompted me to do an online search to see how other cities were combating the issue. This led me to the city of Albuquerque who 5 years ago had initiated their own “Slow Down Albuquerque” initiative. The feedback that I received from the Albuquerque police department was positive. People appreciated the opportunity to be engaged in helping alleviate the problem. The yard signs provided them a voice to drivers in their neighborhoods and it provided the drivers top of mind awareness to check their speeds throughout their commute. Believing that this program would serve the same purpose here I proposed the program to our police department who were eager to work with our community to help curb the issue and our city council who agreed that the problem had reached levels worthy of its own campaign.
Driving over the posted speed limit is not a new phenomenon. Since man first sat behind the wheel of a car he has been trying to “Go Fast” as Ricky Bobby would say. But, nationwide data does show that there are more people driving now than ever and with the increase in traffic brings a higher rate of speeding. This does not bode well for public safety. Let’s look at auto accident fatality data for example. Based on a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2012-2016, 37% of all New Mexico auto accident fatalities were related to speeding.1 Closer to home, San Juan County’s 5 year total was 30% but in 2016 hit 43%, and over the last 5 years we rank 2nd in the state behind Bernalillo County for total auto accident fatalities.2 Ranking second in this data set is not where we want to be and only through an acknowledgement of the problem can we move towards a solution.
Many people have noted that people posting yard signs is not going to miraculously stop people from speeding. That is what speed limit signs are for, right? However, while the goal behind the campaign is to promote safety and reduce speeding in residential neighborhoods, like speed limit signs, its tactics are more subtle and psychological. With a tag line that says “Take your time, not a life” our hope is that the signs will serve to send a message to drivers that we are community that cares about safety, that respects our neighbors, and in general wants positive outcomes for all users of the roadways. It is not a magic cure all for the problem but another tool that our residents can use to show solidarity behind a message that promotes quality of life.
Since we rolled out the campaign in September I have spoken to dozens of community members who have mentioned that because of the signs they are more self aware of their driving habits and speed in neighborhoods. As your elected representative, your safety and your tax dollars are top priorities for me and I believe we have the power as a community to minimize this issue without having to increase traffic enforcement and street department budgets which would be much more costly. So please, talk to your families, to young drivers in your household, ask them to slow down, and remind them of the importance of abiding by the speed limits. It’s not just a matter of speed, it’s a matter of respect for our city and the people who live, work, and play here.
1. NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts New Mexico 2012-2016; https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/STSI.htm#
2. NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts San Juan County 2012-2016; https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/STSI.htm#
Farmington City Council Dist. 4
2017 December 05
KSJE 90.9 FM
The Scott Michlin Morning Program
Interview with Nate Duckett