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Galax citizens are working together to express their frustrations over the recent change in speed limits throughout the city.
Posts about an online petition have been circling on social media. The petition asks the city to reverse the speed limit changes on portions of U.S. 58 that were recently lowered to 35 mph from 45 mph. Other streets in the city, like West Stuart Drive, were lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph.
The petition was created last Wednesday, and by Friday afternoon it had already reached 156 signatures.
The website does not say who created the petition.
Members of Galax City Council voted unanimously in favor of these changes at their May meeting, after hearing a proposal from Police Chief Rick Clark.
Clark presented several recommendations, and told council that the speed limits on 58 were reduced because of the business expansion that has taken place over the past few decades.
Though some have voiced support for slowing down traffic, many citizens have responded negatively since the changes were made, as evidenced by calls to The Gazette and comments on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Some have said that the new speeds are too slow to follow.
Signatures quickly started accumulating after the petition was posted Aug. 28, and many who signed also left comments to further express their frustrations.
Though the petition is not legally binding in any way, it does offer an insight into how some citizens and motorists feel.
When contacted by The Gazette, the originator of the petition said he would prefer to remain anonymous. However, he explained his reasons for creating it: “I hope this will raise awareness that things are being done without the citizens’ say-so. I am unbiased, because I don’t live in Galax or Carroll, but I do have to drive through Galax every day.”
The city did not hold a public hearing about the changes before they were made, but a hearing was not required.
“Having lived in Galax for a large portion of my life, I’ve seen absolutely nothing that would justify changing the speed limit so low throughout the city,” wrote Michael Mickey.
Tony Wilmouth also questioned the reasons behind the change: “The speed limit has nothing to do with accidents on 58. I was rear-ended in a turning lane. It’s just careless drivers [who are to blame].”
“I have lived in Grayson County and worked in Carroll County for 25 years. There are very few accidents on this highway. I think this was simply a speed trap to generate revenue,” wrote an anonymous citizen.
Concern over other speed limit changes were also mentioned in the comments. “The 25 mile speed limit on West Stuart Drive in West Galax is crazy! You have to keep your foot on the brake all the way through,” wrote Kim Moxley.
“The West Stuart Drive speed limit should be changed back to 35, as well. All the speeders still drive the same speed,” wrote Robert Quillen. “You get people to slow down by actually enforcing the law, not by using unilateral legislation.”
Mike Roberts commented that the lower speeds were a “very bad decision on city council’s part.”
He also agreed that the West Stuart Drive limits are too slow, saying that he remembered them being lowered once before and then reversed. “If police really need more revenue, then maybe they can hold a fundraiser,” he suggested.
Some were concerned that the reduction in speed limits might actually lead to more traffic incidents. “Change it back. It’s just asking for accidents to happen. That’s too slow for a highway,” said Candice Shaffner.
Angela Osborne shared the same concern. “That road has had the same speed limit since I can remember. It was crazy to drop it [by] 10 miles per hour... this new change will probably cause more accidents than the way it was,” she wrote.
“Now, people are driving stupid and throwing on their brakes all the time, which in the end is going to cause more accidents than the speed limit getting dropped,” wrote Gary Burnett.
Glenda Forester saw an opportunity for a compromise: “I can see lowering the speed limit between the Food City shopping center to Walmart only.”
It was the Galax Traffic Safety Committee’s opinion that the speeds on 58 should match those that were posted near the Roses/Kroger shopping center, which were set at a lower speed in the past because of the businesses and congestion in that area.
Because of the high number of businesses that extends east from Country Club Lane, Clark said that drivers were “more likely to get in an accident there.”
Following approval from city council, the police department posted an electronic sign to warn drivers of the impending change for several days before the speeds were lowered. Reminders stayed up in the form of electronic speed detectors, reminding fast traffic to slow down.
The online petition can be found HERE.