NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – With so many residential streets near major highways, North Plainfield is rife with speeders. Many residents over the years have complained about speeding cars passing through their neighborhood, and asked the police to do something about it.
When a complaint comes in, the first step is for the police to install a traffic counter such as the one in the picture above. It’s a small box, about a foot square, that attaches to a telephone pole and records the number of cars, the time they pass, and their speed for a period of weeks. The borough has two counters, and three speed signs that are vehicle activated.
“We need to study the area to see if there is a speeding problem, and when it is most prevalent,” said Police Chief William Parenti. “We can use that information to do the most effective enforcement, or find other traffic calming solutions.”
In some cases the data makes a huge difference in how police respond. The department received a complaint in 2013 that there was excessive speeding on Watchung Avenue in the mid-afternoon around 3 p.m. when kids were walking home from school, but when the counters were deployed it turned out that while there was some issue it was not to the point of enforcement.
However, since the counters run twenty-four hours a day they did determine that twelve hours later, at 3 a.m. in the morning. vehicles were moving at unsafe speeds.
"We were stunned that some cars were clocked at eighty miles an hour," said Parenti. "We increased patrols in the area in the overnight and were able to catch a lot of speeders and reduce the risk to residents."
Unless the situation is dire, the next step is to place a vehicle activated sign that displays speeds of passing vehicles. As cars pass drivers can see their speed illuminated on the sign, and often will slow down. These signs also record traffic data and that increases the information police can use.
“These signs are very effective for slowing traffic, but only as long as they are there,” said Parenti. “We find that people start speeding again once the signs are gone.”
Residents often ask for speed bumps, but the Borough is generally unwilling to consider them.
“Speed bumps usually become a bigger problem for the neighborhood than speeding,” said Parenti. “The noise from vehicles going over the bumps can be terrible for the houses nearby.”
One of the best ways to slow traffic is one most people don’t consider: painting stripes on the road. North Plainfield first experimented with this on Norwood Avenue in 2006, and saw a sharp reduction in speeding thanks to the fact that the road appears thinner and makes drivers more careful.
When CostCo was seeking approvals to open their new store, one of the things the Borough asked them to do to offset the potential greater traffic was to stripe Warfield Road that runs behind the development. Parenti says the striping appears to be working again.
If residents or neighborhoods are interested in getting the traffic on their road studied they can contact the police on their non-emergency number, (908) 769-2937.