2017-05-18 / Life in Leelanau

Flashy radar trailer slowing traffic

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

THE LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff’s Office new radar trailer was keeping an electronic eye on drivers heading south on Maple City Road last week. THE LEELANAU COUNTY Sheriff’s Office new radar trailer was keeping an electronic eye on drivers heading south on Maple City Road last week. Speeders heading south on Maple City Road last week may have been surprised by the blue and red lights their lead feet triggered.

They may also have been surprised not to see a sheriff’s deputy in their rear view mirror.

The flashing lights were coming from a new radar trailer parked just outside the little hamlet of Maple City that is part of an effort to get drivers to slow down.

In addition to catching and recording the speed of each car that goes by, the trailer can also record data such as how many cars have gone by and what time they went by.

For example, data collected from the trailer’s recent stint on M-204 near the County Government Center in Suttons Bay Township shows that in the 18-hour time period starting at 5 p.m. April 26 a total of 845 vehicles went by the trailer. Of those, 771 were driving at a rate of less than 60 miles per hour in the 55 mph zone, while 74 were going faster than 61 mph.

The highest speed recorded was 86 mph.

The radar trailer is meant to be an educational tool and a reminder for people to watch their speed, said Leelanau County Undersheriff Steve Morgan.

“A lot of times people go over the speed limit unintentionally and it reminds them to slow down,” Morgan said.

Speed trailers are often placed near special events where there is a large volume of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

It is also used if there are reports of people going too fast on a particular road.

“If we get complaints of speed on a road we set it up to see if there are certain times of the day when people speed,” he said.

Deputies can then take corrective action.

Morgan and Dep. Scott Robinson visited the Leelanau County Road Commission meeting recently to offer up the data and to thank board members for funding the trailer.

Road Commission trustees voted in October to buy the trailer at a cost of $7,121 after a request from Morgan, who asked for half the funding.

The Sheriff’s Office needed a new trailer as the one it had was 18 years old and has seen better days.

At the time, commissioners thought two radar trailers would be better than one and agreed to entirely purchase one of them. The Sheriff’s Office applied fora2percentgrantfromtheGrand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to purchase a second trailer, but that request was denied.

“So we put a little money in the old one just to get it functioning again,” Morgan said.

The Road Commission was asked to help finance the radar trailer as it gets lots of calls from people requesting a speed study on roads where callers say people are driving too fast.

And those people are always referred to the Sheriff’s Office, said Dan Wagner, managing director of the Road Commission.

Speed studies are expensive and getting a speed limit reduced is very diffi- cult, Wagner said, adding that people are always disappointed when they find that out.

Preliminary speed studies are done locally and if further study is warranted, by the Michigan State Police.

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