Speed limits should not cater to particular drivers

The fact that speeding up and slowing down at the same time is a physical impossibility should be evident to even the most casual student of physics. Perhaps the Hillsborough County lawmakers should take a refresher course, as their plans for senior zones conflict significantly with plans for improving traffic flow in the county.

According to a recent article in The Tampa Tribune, a task force charged with finding solutions to the heavy traffic that plagues the county has recommended that $500 million be allotted for improving roadways in the area. The majority of this money would be applied to intersection improvements and road expansions, but a significant $40 million chunk is intended to go to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, the county’s transit agency. This money would largely be used to create a bus rapid transit system to service Fletcher and Florida Avenues.

While these plans seem to be admirable efforts to reduce gridlock, they may well be undermined by current plans to add 47 senior zones countywide, after the supposed success of the one currently in place on Fletcher Avenue.

Installed to improve safety conditions for the residents of the John Knox Village, the zone reduces the speed from 45 mph to 35 mph. This change is indicated via signs, flashing lights and painted road markings. It has been heavily criticized by USF students and has resulted in a spike of traffic citations in the area, which have increased to a level at least 11 times that of previous years, according to an article in the Oracle.

A devoted search turned up no evidence to support the opinion that this zone improves safety, and an increase in citations hardly qualifies. It is also questionable that such a zone is justified even if that improvement exists. The zone was intended to make it safer for the elderly residents of John Knox to enter the flow of traffic. Should we then lower the speed limits everywhere to accommodate them? With 47 more zones planned, it almost seems that we are.

With all due respect to the elderly, a driver’s license is a statement that the driver is qualified to operate a motor vehicle in all traffic conditions. Providing less qualified drivers with less difficult conditions is a disturbing idea, and the speed reductions that would be induced by these planned zones run completely counter to plans to improve the county’s traffic flow.

If the residents of our senior communities are uncomfortable driving in Tampa, perhaps they should take the bus.