CENTREVILLE — County commissioners officially kept the speed limit unchanged along Bennett Point Road after a unanimous vote at the Tuesday, Aug. 27, regular meeting.
Various members of the public provided testimony with all opposing raising the speed. Many cited the danger it posed to residents whose property was close to the road and school buses that stop for loading and unloading of students.
Don Gross, an area resident who started a petition to raise the speed limit on a section of Bennett Point Road to 50 mph, collected an estimated 125 signatures two years ago in favor of the change.
“We’re all concerned with safety in that area, and I drive up and down that road multiple times daily,” Gross said. “I’ve been in the line of school buses during the school year, and I stop at every point they do. I know people are concerned with passing school buses, but I’ve never seen it happen.”
Yet county commissioners cited a deluge of emails they received from the public to consider the number of the traffic collisions and safety issues for residents simply trying to get their mail by having to cross the busy street.
Issues date back to 2004 when concerns from the county’s school board, the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office and residents became overwhelming.
A 2004 county Roads Division safety audit found the majority of motorists drove through Bennett Point Road at or near 50 mph with 15% going faster than that. That included vehicles passing schools buses when loading and unloading students.
“My (family) has lived at our home since the speed limit was 50 mph and the reduced to 35 mph. From our front porch, we’ve seen three accidents, with one of them being a car full of teenagers upside down on the front of our neighbor’s front lawn,” said Kathy Deoudes, who lives along the road.
For the 2019-20 school year, there are 11 elementary, six middle school and 14 high school eligible school bus stops on Bennett Point Road.
According to the sheriff’s office, between Jan. 1, 2016, and Jan. 1, 2019, Bennett Point Road saw 23 reportable crashes, 19 damage-only crashes, 20 to 23 single-vehicle crashes, six weather-related crashes and four due to either unsafe passing or speeding.
“Where I live is the most concentrated area of residents along the road, and that’s about 40 houses that are less than 75 to 80 feet off the road. The majority are on the right side with our mailboxes across the street. The only reason to be speeding on this road is if you’re an emergency response vehicle,” said Michelle O’Brian, a resident of the Bennet Point Road area for 22 years.
The Maryland State Police Centreville Barracks counted one personal injury crash and three property damage crashes.
Traffic enforcement by the sheriff’s office totaled 241 traffic violations, with 150 being for speeding; 143 warnings were issued for speeding; and 55 traffic stops were done along the road at Hemsley Drive and 32 at near Sayers Forest Road.
“I think as most drivers go, if the speed limit is 50 mph, people will go 59. Because of that, I would rather err on the side of caution especially if it’s only saving someone two minutes,” County Commissioner Jim Moran said.
County Commissioner Phil Dumenil made a motion to keep the speed limit the same, and the whole commission voted in favor.