Community Speed Control Program

Traffic impacts in residential communities remain an issue in Howard County. These impacts are principally related to excessive vehicular speed within communities. To address these problems, the Police and Public Works departments have implemented a comprehensive community speed control program. The program incorporates three necessary elements to combat excessive vehicular speed: traffic safety education, vehicular law enforcement, and, when needed, the appropriate level of engineering retrofit of roadway conditions.

Because this program is young and its long-term effectiveness is uncertain, the Howard County staff considers it an interim effort. The program will be closely monitored and necessary changes will be made as results are collected. 

Traffic Safety Awareness Campaign - The Public Information Office will develop an ongoing campaign to heighten public awareness to reduce speeds in residential communities.

  • Rev 10-23-2013
  • Community Association Activities - The two departments will establish an outreach program to work with impacted communities to address the community’s traffic and speed concerns.

The Howard County Department of Police recognizes that excessive speed and other traffic violations in residential areas are a source of concern to the community. The Department will take an active role in enforcing applicable laws, educating the public and making suggestions for road engineering improvements. Law is the principal means of speed control.

  • It is the responsibility of each patrol officer to enforce motor vehicle laws, particularly those involving excessive speed. Radar training and equipment will be provided to as many Patrol Division officers as possible to assist them in this effort during the normal course of their patrols. Supervisors who become aware of speed problems in specific communities will direct their officers to conduct speed enforcement in those areas. 
  • Specific speeding complaints in residential areas will be directed to the Traffic Enforcement Section, which will keep a file of all such complaints. 
  • A Radar Road List will be published each month to direct the enforcement efforts of patrol officers assigned radar or other speed measuring devices. Each road will require a minimum amount of enforcement time. The Supervisor of the Traffic Enforcement Section will approve roads for inclusion on the list based on the number of complaints received, past enforcement history on the road, and analysis of any speed surveys conducted by the Department of Police or Traffic Engineering. 
  • In addition to the monthly Radar Road List, the Traffic Enforcement Section will identify roadways for officer enforcement, including roads on which speeding persists or is of such a nature that it requires immediate and sustained enforcement. These may also include roads in which the use of unmarked vehicles or special equipment is necessary. 
  • At the beginning of each school year, the Department of Police will institute a special speed enforcement program on the roadways surrounding the County’s schools. This presence will serve to cite violators and to remind drivers that school is back in session and conformance to the speed limits is critical for student safety. This program will be accompanied by news releases.
  • Rev 10/31/2013

Retrofitting existing residential streets to reduce vehicular speeds is an option when problems persist in a community. Each community’s problems need to be reviewed individually by the Department and with a solution custom designed to fit the particular situation. The community will be encouraged to provide input regarding the development of a final solution.  

Options for retrofit include: 

  • Roadway Striping - In many cases, a center line stripe can effectively channel traffic and thereby reduce speeds. Other specialized striping techniques can be used to draw attention to lane markings. 
  • Edge Line Markings - These are used to delineate lane widths. Reducing a lane width has the potential for reducing speeds. The area between the edge of the road and the lane marking can then be used for parking in selected situations or as a bike lane. 
  • Traffic Circles - Generally, these are installed in intersections. Vehicle speeds are reduced as motorists circle the center island. The modern roundabout design is effective for regulating speeds at intersections. 
  • Speed Humps -  
  • Redesign of Streets - In limited instances, residential streets will be subject to reconstruction primarily through the Capital Budget. In these circumstances, there will be opportunity to modify the geometry to reduce vehicular speeds. 
  • Other Traffic Calming Devices - There are some other potential traffic calming concepts that could be used to reduce vehicle speeds. Examples include streetscape additions and landscaping. These options will be reviewed on a selective basis.

In order to implement the retrofit program, the following guidelines will apply: 

  • Low Volume Local Roads - For these roadways, which do not have through movements, an education strategy is recommended. Enhanced law enforcement and engineering retrofit would not be used in these locations. Low volume roads would show less than 1,000 ADT (average daily traffic count of 1,000 vehicles). 
  • Local Roads and Minor Collectors - For these roadways, which are through streets or streets showing ADTs greater than 1,200 vehicles, all of the traffic calming strategies can be employed.

For an engineering retrofit to be considered, the prevailing speed (85th percentile) shall be measured in excess of 10 mph over the posted speed limit. When this determination is made, the Department will do an analysis and present a plan of action to the community. The plan may consist of one or more of the retrofit options. After citizen review and community association approval of the plan, the Director will authorize implementation of the plan consistent with the available budget resources. 

Major Collector Roads - The primary emphasis for speed control will be enforcement and education. In circumstances where problems continue, retrofits will be considered. Edge markings, roundabouts, chokers, intersection modifications, roadway medians and striping are the principal options for consideration. In unusual circumstances, other options can be considered. The Department will present a plan for citizen review and community association approval. After review and approval by the community, the Director will authorize implementation of the plan consistent with available budget resources. 

Arterial Roads - Due to the nature and function of these roadways, traffic enforcement will be the primary method for speed control. However, in some cases traffic calming may still be needed. In these situations, retrofits will be done as a Capital Project.

Extremely Limited Situations 

  • School Zones -  The Maryland General Assembly has passed legislation (Senate Bill 277, Chapter 500) that will allow Howard County to use cameras to catch speeders.  Cameras are the only device to be used in School Zones. 

Many, if not most, of the communities in the County have requested that action be taken to provide additional speed control in their areas. In order to prioritize the backlog of requests, the Department will rank requests as top priority (school walking routes), second priority (connector or through streets), and third priority (remaining cul-de-sacs or isolated road system communities). 

  • Plan Approval Process - In order to obtain an accurate evaluation of the plan, a community vote will be required. The Department will identify all of the affected properties on the road proposed for traffic calming and streets that connect with it. In order for the plan to be implemented, two-thirds of all affected property holders must vote for the plan. The governing community association will conduct and validate the vote and forward a confirming letter to the Director, Department of Public Works, within 30 days of the tally.