By Tony Wells
The renovations in Middleburg have been long and tedious for our local community and shopkeepers. With an end in sight we can all perhaps breathe a sigh of relief. However, there is one key issue that we all should address as a community – the speed limit in town, currently 25 mph.
The new crosswalks may hopefully constrain traffic speed and increase driver courtesy and consideration to pedestrians. But there is never a guarantee. The reduction in road width at key crossings also raises the specter of traffic funneling through more constrained areas at the same speed – not good.
A number of years ago I was at the aftermath of a fatal accident in Middleburg near to the Exxon station. It was a very sad sight indeed, a driver’s error of judgment that cost the female driver her life. However, I still believe that she may have survived if the speed limit had been 15, not 25 mph, because the dump truck that hit her side on would have had more time to stop. I do not ever want to see a repetition of this tragedy again in our wonderful little town.
As Vice President and a Life Member of The Plains Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company I am acutely aware of the numbers involved in vehicle and pedestrian accidents. As a National Ski Patroller I know the forces involved in collisions.
The key physics equation for you all to consider is the one for Kinetic Energy (KE) generation and absorption, KE=M x V Squared, divided by 2. This reads as M = Mass, V= Velocity. The critical value is Velocity. The average canonical FAA human being weighs 170 pounds (used in the design of commercial aircraft). Get out your calculator and look at the kinetic energy (KE) generated by a car weighing say 3000 pounds (a ton and half) striking a pedestrian weighing 170 pounds. The energy created is absorbed by both, the pedestrian clearly being the worst off.
Now do a calculation where the value V, the speed (velocity), is 25 miles per hour, and then calculate it for 15 miles per hour. Remember that the value V is squared. 15 squared is 225, versus 625 for 25 squared. My point is self evident. Not only can the 15 mph vehicle stop more quickly over a given distance than the 25 mph vehicle, the KE involved is dramatically reduced.
We need to urgently address the speed limit in town.
Sadly neither our very fine police Chief and his great team, nor the Town Council, have control over the town speed limit, and cannot mandate by vote in Council. It is a VDOT controlled issue, and historically VDOT is very slow to act. I have direct experience.
It took me several years, countless visits to Warrenton to Transportation Committee meetings, and support from both the Sheriff and State Police, before I succeeded in lowering the speed limit at Half Way on The Plains Road, and for new safety signage to be erected, together with the more recent rumble strips that were installed. In the interim we have had multiple accidents on the bend at Half Way, at the junction with the Landmark Road. VDOT can be a law unto itself.
This leads me to advocate a multi pronged approach to the lowering of the Middleburg speed limit to 15 mph, by a community organized Petition to VDOT, and Loudoun Transportation Committee, political action by the Town Council, and direct action by our local State and Congressional representatives, with our Police Chief helping to lead the charge.
Now is the time to act, before completion of the renovations. I never want to see what I witnessed here, in Middleburg, a few years back, with the death of a driver. Speed kills. We need a 15 mph speed limit in Middleburg.