Jonathan Crimmins

Jonathan Crimmins

Leave it to a couple of politicians from away to ruin a good time. I know, that could be said for most of the ideas that solons of all stripes come up with but, in this case it would be accurate.

Last week it was reported that Representative Teresa Pierce of Falmouth and Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth have targeted the Brunswick, Freeport and Yarmouth areas of I-295 for a little legislative love. Together they have proposed a bill this session that would lower the speed limit from 70 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour for that stretch of road.

The pair want to make sure that a recent increase in the number of accidents on the highway is reversed and that motorists maintain a leisurely pace on one of the State’s busiest paved roads. Unfortunately, neither the Senator nor the Representative have any background information or statistics other than the increased number of accidents to base their ideas upon. Although, in general data that was released by the State’s Department of Public Safety, the number of deaths on all of Maine’s roads was well below average for the year.

This bill may best be characterized as ready, shoot, aim!

Sen. Millett has commented that she drives the route to and from Augusta several times per week and she is faced with hands that ache from gripping the wheel too hard. She claims this is because the traffic is too fast. Apparently once she passes over the Androscoggin and reaches the rural confines of Sagadahoc County her cares fade away and the tachometer racing to hit seventy is alright.

Lowering the speed limit is one idea but the reasons that make this stretch of road prone to accidents are more than speed related. In the Brunswick to Falmouth corridor you have environmental factors. You have the variability of the drivers. You have the vehicles themselves and then you have the terrain and a number of shortened off ramps. These ramps can cause a traffic jam that make a NASCAR pit road look quaint.

Having driven this road five days a week for the last 15 years there seems to be many reasons that accidents are on the increase. Speed may be a factor but there is so much more to what makes accidents occur. Erratic driving behavior is something I see often. Needlessly shifting lanes to gain a slight advantage is an ever-present problem. The person driving 40 miles per hour while on their phone, tablet or laptop is commonplace.

Just last month I entered I-295 in Portland. Somewhere along Tukey’s Bridge I was passed by a dark colored sedan that had no headlights on save for day time running lights. The gentleman also did not have any lights marking the back of his car. This would not have been a problem at noon, but this was at 8 p.m., long after the sun had set.

After having paced this vehicle for several miles I called the emergency number and was told by the dispatcher that they would be looking for this limited luminary. Despite being a danger to all those on the road that night due to his cloak of invisibility and having been followed for several miles by a Sheriff ’s SUV, it was not until I saw him again at a stop light on Pleasant Street and asked him to turn on his lights that he was finally visible.

Thirty miles and nearly no one paid any mind to this driver.

There are many reasons for accidents on the highway. Focusing on only one reason and hoping for a decrease in accidents does not make sense. Instead of focusing on the one aspect that is sure to hurt all drivers on the highway, most importantly the ones who are responsible and can drive at the higher speed, let’s target the drivers who are causing the problems. Lets enforce our driving standards that are already on the books and make enforcement a priority.

Rarely do I see law enforcement vehicles on the highway between Brunswick and Falmouth. Senator Millett and Representative Pierce, before placing restrictions on all of us, please take the concerns behind this bill and ensure that we see enforcement on the road. Certainly a higher profile for the police on this stretch will be a good thing and may just bring down the number of accidents.

Legislators have the ability to find ways to fund a higher level of enforcement. Let’s try that first.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins lives in Brunswick and can be reached at j_ [email protected]


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