Speed Zapper: Do Speed Bumps Work?

OMAHA When it comes to traffic, few things can stir up controversy like speed bumps. In Omaha, they're typically 12 feet long and four inches high, but the reactions from drivers are much bigger. In fact, some communities have even rallied to get the city to install speed bumps only to reverse course and rally to get them removed.

"I won't give you the street because I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but the same person who went to bat to get them in, went and rallied the neighbors to take them back out," said Todd Pfitzer, an Omaha city engineer.

Pfitzer said the city's changed the policy since that incident. If someone wants a speed bump in their neighborhood they must prove that 75 percent of their neighbors back the plan before a survey of the area is done. After it passes that first hurdle, the city looks into the amount of traffic and whether the street warrants a speed bump to curb speeding.

Still, people don't always see eye to eye when it comes to speed bumps. Tom Everson, the creator of Drive 25, Keep Kids Alive, told WOWT 6 News that he purposely doesn't sway people one way or the other when it comes to speed bumps. People often come to Everson looking for advice for stopping speeding issues in their neighborhoods, and as often as he gets requests for help to get speed bumps he also gets request to find help to get rid of them.

"A lot of them want them to be taken out," said Everson. "Why? Because people drive faster in-between the speed bumps, so you have more people complaining who may not have been complaining before."

Everson said he's also heard complaints of young drivers purposely hitting speed bumps at higher speeds to go airborne.

Pfitzer said another common complaint is noise.

Despite arguments over whether the speed bumps do harm or good, numerous Omaha traffic studies have proven that speed bumps are effective. Since they're a source of debate, the WOWT 6 News Speed Zapper team set up a test of their own.

On 33rd Street, between Poppleton and Mason, two speed bumps are 1/5th of a mile apart. The Speed Zapper crew tracked speeds for more than an hour, and found the fewest speeders of any locations we've tracked in 2014. The average "top speed" between the speed bumps was 27 miles per hour. A typical Speed Zapper location will turn up a faster speed, and top speed of 10-15 miles per hour over the speed limit regularly.

Pfitzer said there have been situations in the past where speed bumps have not been as effective, in some cases they've gone back and added additional speed bumps to clear up the problems.

If you're interested in learning more about how to get a speed bump in your neighborhood click on the green tab in the upper right-hand corner of the Speed Zapper page. The link will take you to an informational page for the Omaha Public Works department that details the process.

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