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Residents along South Old Belair Road have complained that motorists routinely drive 10-20 miles an hour over the speed limit.

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Residents along South Old Belair Road have complained that motorists routinely drive 10-20 miles an hour over the speed limit.   Photo by Jim Blaylock

Vince Meadows usually enjoys his morning coffee on the back patio of his townhome watching morning traffic along South Old Belair Road.

But lately, he said, rush-hour motorists are whizzing by faster than is safe.

“The speeding has gotten completely out of control,” Meadows said.

He often uses a radar gun designed for fast-pitch softball to monitor the speeders. He’s clocked most of the morning motorists between 48 and 58 on the road where the speed limit is 35 mph. Some he’s clocked moving more than 60 or 70 mph.

He’s witnessed and heard several wrecks on the road and is concerned because of the schoolchildren and school buses on the road during that time.

“I just don’t want to see someone get killed,” said Meadows, who lost his 18-year-old daughter, Callie, in a car wreck in 2008. “That’s the only thing that’s scaring me is a child getting hurt. I don’t want another parent to have to go through that.”

Meadows has been working with and keeping law enforcement informed of the speeding situation. About a year ago, authorities learned of the growing speeding problem on South Old Belair Road and took efforts to slow motorists.

Columbia County sheriff’s deputies regularly patrolled the road and issued numerous speeding citations as well as regularly putting the radar trailer out on the shoulder to monitor speeds.

“We put the trailer out there so you will pay attention to your speed,” sheriff’s Maj. Rick Whitaker said. “We put that out there as a warning type thing.”

Since the initial complaints, the area is on the concentrated patrol list to have deputies patrol the area as regularly as possible.

“You can’t put anybody over there all the time,” Whitaker said, adding that department resources and deputies must pay attention and respond to many “problem areas” and incidents throughout the county.

“If we could, we would. That would really take care of it.”

As of Wednesday, deputies responded to nine wrecks on South Old Belair Road this year and 33 last year. In 2014, deputies wrote 308 citations to motorists, mostly for speeding. So far this year, 112 citations, mostly for speeding, have been written.

When a “problem area” is identified, deputies will typically patrol it heavily and monitor the area.

Whitaker said a particular Traffic Unit supervisor has been paying special attention to the problem and hasn’t heard many complaints in the past year, until recently.

Speeding can be very dangerous on any road like South Old Belair, which has lots of homes and driveways, a school zone and lots of curves.

The speed limit on the road was lowered from 45 mph to 35 mph in 2008, according to Columbia County Traffic Operations Analyst Bobby Cato. He said the county engineer wanted to lower the speed limit about a decade ago because of a lot of new home construction in the area.

The new signs were put up in 2008 and are 3-foot-by-4-foot with safety-reflective text, said Cato.

“Those are big signs that are out there on South Old Belair Road,” Cato said.

“Our plans are we’re going to enhance our patrols over there,” Whitaker said. “It’s hard to keep somebody on that particular area all day.”

 
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