The Georgia Department of Transportation, as part of an annual review of posted speed limits, recently increased the speed limit on the portion of U.S. Highway 84 that runs past Bainbridge High School.
The speed limit in the BHS school zone has been increased from 45 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, and in the adjacent sections of U.S. 84 on either side of the school zone the speed limit has been increased from 55 miles per hour to 65 miles per hour.
Decatur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Fred Rayfield said he believes the higher speed limits have led to “an extremely dangerous situation for students, buses, parents, employees and other motorists on Highway 84.”
In addition to asking the Georgia DOT to consider reducing the speed limit within the school zone back to 45 miles per hour, other safety improvements that Decatur County Schools have requested the Georgia DOT to make:
- Extend the turning lane for the entrance to the high school that is used by buses
- Expand the school zone by moving the signage beyond the property limits of the BHS campus
- Place flashing lights on the north side of U.S. 84 East, across the highway from the high school, to help slow traffic
“Our main goal is to provide a safe environment for everyone accessing our campus and for the personnel that work traffic in the school zone each day,” Dr. Rayfield said. “We are working with the Georgia Department of Transportation, as well as state and local government officials and local law enforcement to address this safety issue.”
Bainbridge Public Safety officers help Decatur County Schools resource officers direct traffic during the peak school zone periods, around 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Georgia state patrol troopers also help patrol the traffic on U.S. 84 East.
Safety concerns outlined
Cpl. Jeromy Roberts of the Georgia State Patrol’s Colquitt post outlined some of the safety concerns associated with traffic around Bainbridge High School.
He said there’s a potentially risky combination of fast-moving vehicles on U.S. 84 East with inexperienced teen drivers turning in and out of the high school.
Teens who have only been driving for a year or two sometimes don’t have the same quick reflexes and reaction as older drivers, Cpl. Roberts said. Teen drivers are also more likely to be distracted by cell phones or music, he said.
“State troopers caution anyone driving through school zones at any time of the school day to just go a little slower and be on the lookout for buses, other vehicles picking up children or pedestrians,” Trooper Roberts said. “There’s just a lot that can happen when there’s many vehicles located in a close proximity of each other.”
When the new Bainbridge High School first opened in 2009, local law enforcement were concerned that student drivers weren’t using enough caution as they turned out of the high school, across the eastbound lanes into the concrete median, and then merging into the eastbound lanes of U.S. 84.
There have also been some accidents involving vehicles following each other too closely.
Right now, Bainbridge Public Safety has placed a “speed buggy” showing motorists’ actual speed on a visual display. It’s a reminder for drivers to go slower as they approach the high school.