Kennebunk will unveil a new campaign next month aimed at motivating motorists to drive within the speed limit. As this speed measuring device in West Kennebunk revealed at mid-morning last Thursday, drivers don’t always take heed, even when their speed is displayed. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – There’s a new campaign afoot, designed to inspire motorists to ease off the gas pedal and slow down.

In October, the town will roll out a public service video on social media, public access cable television and the town’s website, encouraging drivers to “Slow down Kennebunk. Life will be awaiting when you arrive.”

The idea, said select board chair Blake Baldwin, is “to appoint all of us as ambassadors of traffic calming.”

He said if motorists committed to driving “at least within spitting distance of the speed limit,” others would have to do the same.

“If I am driving 30 mph down the Port Road and the cars pile up behind me, that’s OK,” Baldwin said.

Speeding in Kennebunk – and elsewhere – has been an issue for long time.

Back in 2019, the Kennebunk Police Department put motorists on notice that they were watching for those who drive faster than the limit spells out.

“Since I can remember, speeding is the No. 1 complaint,” said Police Chief Robert MacKenzie at the time. The department put out the word they were looking for voluntary compliance and used some grant funds earmarked specifically for special police details for traffic enforcement.

Then came a period when staffing levels were down – at one point Kennebunk Police had seven unfilled slots due to vacancies and officers out on medical leave, MacKenzie said.

That meant those working were mandated to pull extra shifts. With time off a precious commodity during that period, officers were reluctant to volunteer for additional duty like special details, MacKenzie noted. Recently, staffing levels have improved – there is just one vacancy and one individual out on medical leave –  so MacKenzie said he is hopeful that the next time grant funding is available for traffic details, there will be more officers available.

In the meantime, officers conduct traffic stops when they can and the department employs equipment to record speed, time of day and other details (but no photos of vehicles or license plates, MacKenzie said) to determine when and where speed scofflaws are most active.

“(Speeding) is more of a societal issue,” said MacKenzie. “Everyone is busy and distracted and speed has crept up.”

It remains an issue he hears about, and the town’s select board hears about, frequently.

“I would gladly allow for …. a speed device or slow down sign to be placed on my lawn adjacent to the high school,” said board member Kortney Nedeau, who said she hears complaints of drivers speeding in West Kennebunk, on Cat Mousam Road near the Blueberry Plains and Alewive Road.

She said she thinks the town is taking a good first step with the solar-powered speed signs placed around town and other measures, adding she expects Kennebunk will soon need funding for a patrol position due to the increasing population and tourist season extending well beyond Labor Day.

Other locations that seem to attract speeding motorists are Whitten Road, Webber Hill Road, Port Road and Summer Street, said MacKenzie. He said he believes the public service campaign will help.

“The last thing we want to see is an accident because of speeding,” said West Kennebunk resident Ed Karytko, a former board member, as the board discussed the issue at a recent meeting. “There is more and more pedestrian traffic on these roads.”

In 2019, speeding was a contributing factor in 26 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration. That year,  there were just under 9,500 speeding-related traffic deaths in the U.S., the agency reported. The administration  went on to say consequences of speeding can include a greater potential for loss of vehicle control; reduced effectiveness of occupant protection equipment; increased stopping distance after the driver perceives a danger; increased degree of crash severity leading to more severe injuries and increased fuel consumption and cost, along with the economic consequences of a speed-related crash.

Board member Bill Ward asked Baldwin to put a pitch in the video for crosswalks, as well.

“You have a one in five chance of crossing the street,” Ward said, registering concerns the crosswalks about Great Hill Road and along Mother’s Beach on Beach Avenue. “So, this is a plea to mention crosswalks.”

Kennebunk Communications and Marketing Specialist Tina Radel said filming of the video is set to begin next week, with a view toward rolling out the campaign in early October.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: