By Mark E. Vogler
Interim Saugus Chief of Police Ronald Giorgetti is recommending additional funds in the town’s 2020 fiscal year budget so the Police Department can establish a traffic enforcement unit.
“With a dedicated traffic unit, we could reduce the traffic accidents significantly,” Giorgetti said at Wednesday night’s selectmen’s meeting during a public hearing on a proposal to reduce speed limits on three major Saugus roads: Essex Street, Main Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree, a former Saugus police officer, has already said the Police Department needs to have its own traffic enforcement unit.
While selectmen didn’t accept the chief’s recommendation to retain the current speed limits on the three well-traveled town roads, all members expressed support in giving him the resources he needs to make the streets safer for pedestrians and riders.
“I fully support the need for additional resources for traffic enforcement,” Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Jeffrey Cicolini said.
“I do believe we have to support our police any way we can,” Board of Selectmen Chair Debra Panetta said.
Crabtree said the Department is constantly looking for state or federal grants that would enable the Police Department to hire additional officers – a necessity in order to do a better job on traffic enforcement.
During Wednesday night’s hearing, Giorgetti recommended keeping the speed limits the same. “We continue to believe the speed limits are appropriately set,” Giorgetti said.
“We suggest posting the speed limit signs on the streets in accordance with the speed limits that are in the Traffic Rules and Regulations and already approved by the state,” Giorgetti wrote in a position statement he presented to selectmen.
Giorgetti suggested that “transportation practitioners commonly refer to the “3 E” model “when seeking to address pedestrian and bicyclist safety concerns”:
- Engineering changes to the roadway environment or operations (sidewalks, bike facilities, traffic signals) that affect the movement of pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users
- Education – efforts made to educate pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers or other groups in order to raise awareness of a particular law, safety issue or behavior and motivate a change in attitude or behavior that will have a positive effect on safety
- Enforcement – law enforcement agency efforts to promote compliance with laws, ordinances and regulations (speed limits, failure to yield, use of crosswalks, use of bicycle facilities).
“Keep in mind that lowering the speed limit on main arteries will undoubtedly create more traffic congestion and will only succeed in reducing traffic collisions, personal injuries, facilities and property damage with the cooperation of the motoring public,” Giorgetti said.
“Enforcement and education would be key components of any overall strategy to reduce injuries and property damage,” the chief said.
“If the board chooses to lower the speed limit to 25 MPH, the department recommends the Town acquire the services of Traffic engineer/consultant to identify type of signs or signals, and location of signs or signals. The Department of Public Works would be responsible for procurement and installation of the appropriate signage.”