SEBRING — Motorists have griped about it and residents protested it, so the state lowered it.
In a move expected to take full effect in about a month, the Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to lower the speed limit on U.S. 27 by 5 mph inside the Sebring city limits.
County Administrator Randy Vosburg told county commissioners on Tuesday that within two weeks, FDOT will reset the speed limit to 50 mph from Oak Circle on the south end to Northwood Boulevard, just north of Sebring Parkway/Schumacher Road.
Currently, it’s 45 mph in the city limits of both Avon Park and Lake Placid. Speed limits will also remain the same between Avon Park and Sebring and from Sebring south to Lake Placid.
Speed studies conducted by FDOT in March this year showed some speed limits should increase, said County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. FDOT officials announced in May, when the results were published, that they wouldn’t do that.
However, they also didn’t want a “yo-yo” effect of drivers speeding up and slowing down for different sections within Sebring.
Howerton said a 50 mph speed limit along that stretch is a “double-edge.” It seems low in the northbound lanes as the road borders Lake Jackson with little to no cross-traffic.
However, for southbound drivers and those attempting to enter or exit driveways along those lanes, a lower speed limit will help, he said.
The study looked at speed on the road for a month and tallied three years of wrecks from U.S. 98/State Road 66 to the north county line.
On that stretch, the majority of people drive as much as 9 mph faster than posted limits, and have a comfort level anywhere from 41-70 mph, depending on locations.
The study also said, of 940 recorded wrecks in three years, just 2.6 percent were from speed.
On March 1, however, a group of residents protested traffic conditions on both sides of U.S. 27 at New Life Way/Bayview Street — the site of at least two fatal wrecks, on Feb. 3 this year and on June 30, 2007.
On their hand-lettered signs, they asked drivers to slow down, back off cars in front of them and put away distractions, namely texting.
Commissioner Don Elwell said this would help, but U.S. 27 owes its traffic dangers to several factors, including older, distracted and/or aggressive drivers, as well as people turning left from the right lane, driving slowly in the left lane, making blinkers optional or treating red lights as a guide, not a rule.
“Lowering the speed limit 5 mph won’t fix it,” Elwell said. “This is just one beginning solution which will help.”
Enforcement is only allowed two weeks after the signs change, Vosburg said. Elwell said enforcement will play a big part of it, because people will drive 60 mph or more as long as they feel comfortable doing it.