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Slow down eyed for Oakland County unpaved roads
Lawmaker considers 45 mph gravel road speed legislation

by David Fleet

September 18, 2013

Rep. Brad Jacobsen (Oxford R-46th District, which includes Brandon Township) is working on a bill as part of a package that would decrease the legal speed limit on gravel roads to 45 mph unless otherwise marked.

The change in the law would only include counties with a population of one million or more which includes Oakland and Wayne counties.

"This is an issue of safety and public health," said Jacobsen. "I feel it is important to bring a solution to the table; I have heard from many families who live on dirt roads and are concerned for their well-being. I think we have all heard of instances where people are driving recklessly, 'just because they can,' and the aim of this legislation is to prevent accidents by irresponsible drivers."

Mike Compagnoni, Michigan House of Representatives legislative director, said speed limits on unpaved roads are currently 55 mph

"Speed limits will automatically drop to 45 mph," said Compagnoni. "Unless otherwise posted— no one wants to pay to put signs back up in the county. Oakland County is a unique situation—we have a high population with many dirt roads. The issue is compounded access points to the dirt roads—there are many locations where subdivisions with many homes enter a dirt road. The problem is the fewer access points keeps the speed limit at 55 mph when it should be reduced down due to the traffic. Similarly, many areas of Oakland County go from paved roads to unpaved, then back—sections of road change quickly. The conditions of the road changes drastically."

A revised state law, enacted by the state legislature in March 2006, increased the speed limit on roads previously posted at 25 mph to 55 mph—even in residential areas. Since then, area residents and local officials have had mixed reactions to the change.

Compagnoni said speed on unpaved roads is one of the biggest concerns his office hears from constituents.

"Overall, crashes are down since the law changed in 2006," he said. "The 45 mph is a reasonable speed limit."

Jacobsen's bill is part of a package with state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba and Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

Lawmakers want to make sure that all communities follow the "85th percentile" rule, and he wants to lift the state's existing 70 mph cap on highway speed limits that state police must enforce even when their studies show that a higher limit could be safe.

That might mean a 75 mph or 80 mph speed limit on a stretch of freeway, or 55 mph in a congested area or on a curve with limited visibility. The package would do a few things including increasing the speed limits on interstate highways, changing the point system and clarifying language regarding access points.