Old Lyme Police, Selectmen Meet to Discuss Traffic Safety

(CT Examiner)


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OLD LYME — In response to recent incidents of reckless driving and public calls for more traffic enforcement, the Board of Selectmen invited Resident State Trooper Matt Weber and members of his patrol staff for a discussion and listening session with the public on Monday. 

Fred Gaston of Ferry Road was the first to speak, from an audience of about 35 residents, including those online.

“Each of us doesn’t have to look far to see the speeding threat. In fact, look just outside this room. I have spoken to long-time residents on Lyme Street, and they regularly see traffic going way in excess of the speed limit, including through the school zone,” he said. “I think the idea of a child running out from the parked cars terrifies us all, and a speeder wouldn’t be able to stop. But it’s also going on in everyone’s neighborhood.” 

Kay Clark of Neck Road said that it’s been difficult and sometimes dangerous to pull out of her driveway located on a blind curve due to southbound cars speeding. She said she had asked the state for a hidden driveway sign but had received no response. 

Carolyn Miranda, who lives on the corner of Biscayne Blvd. and Route 156, has spoken about speeding at Board of Selectmen meetings numerous times.

“It’s local people. It’s these big rigs. There’s construction vehicles… It’s extremely dangerous,” she said. 

Miranda said she supported better signage as well as more speed monitoring and more consistent enforcement as w. 

“I truly think ticketing works because it hits them in their pocket in two ways. They have to pay the fine and their insurance rates will go up… ticketing not warnings… we need something permanent that’s going to slow things down before something tragic happens here” she said.

50 traffic stops

The latest accident in town involved a teenage driver who was speeding on Sill Lane and drove across a historic garden and hit the porch of a house. A previous incident involved a teenage driver who crashed into a school bus. 

Trooper Weber said his department had made 50 traffic stops since Monday and the statistics were surprising.

“At least 95 percent are our neighbors and a lot of it is people who live close by. Out of 50 traffic stops, under 10 are 21 and under,” he said. “It’s the adults, not just youth.” 

Weber, who sat with Corporal Wayne Collins, Patrolman Ethan Kula, Corporal Dominic Solari, said that the town police force had four officers and should have six.

“The Board of Selectmen has been helpful in recruiting… on April 17, we wil have five fulltime officers and we’re in the process of one more for February of next year. Then we’ll be at full staff,” he said. 

Weber said that increased enforcement on Sill Lane meant less enforcement in other areas of town. He said that he assigns officers to be visible at the schools during prime times. 

Rosemarie Padovano, co-owner of the house on Sill Lane, said the last week has been “night and day” in terms of speeding enforcement.

“Since there has not been much enforcement to date, drivers of every age take the speed limit as a suggestion,” she said, adding that local teenagers do not understand the consequences of excessive speed. 

Padovano asked that the town establish and clarify speed limit signage and to create consequences that will deter drivers from speeding. 

Maris Wacs, also of Sill Lane, said she was concerned about repaving Sill Lane this summer because that could increase speeding. “The potholes are keeping us safer,” she said.

Carolann Patterson, a Lyme resident, who said her town and Old Lyme share a zip code and a high school, said the latest accident on Sill Lane should be seen as a “big warning” and asked that towns pay careful attention to public health and public safety issues.

“What’s it going to take? A dead neighbor, dead dog, or a car full of dead kids?” she said.

Christine Grem of Hawks Nest Road said she had experienced a near miss of her grandchild because of a speeding vehicle. She asked for speed detection signs with cameras and automatic $250 tickets. 

Rick Drake of Ferry Road asked that the town consider a traffic engineering study focusing on safety issues. 

“We don’t want to solve it bandaid by bandaid, instead we need a townwide solution,” he said. “Push a traffic study through the town as a high priority.” 

A citizenship problem

Selectman Jim Lampos said he had identified a number of issues related to speeding, including the need for appropriate speed limit signage where higher speed limit state roads transition to “rural pathways,” for example, where the Boston Post Road flows into Sill Lane.

He also said there was a need for more enforcement and ticketing and would defer to Weber on the locations and frequency.

Lampos also said that education about speeding was needed for high school students, but that the general social disconnect extended across generations.

“We need to educate kids on citizenship, being part of the community… and how do we reach older people. We have a citizenship problem in this country. How do we get more people involved in this process? How do we get people to behave as part of a community?”

Lampos said he was wary of an expensive traffic study that could sit on a shelf. Instead, he suggested that a public safety committee be formed with representatives from each part of town to meet with the police with the goal of a comprehensive long-term solution.  

Selectman Jude Read said she supported community outreach through driver’s education programs. She acknowledged that the police had many responsibilities in town but encouraged increased patrolling, ticketing and stops. 

First Selectman Martha Shoemaker said she supported increased community involvement, and added that the Board of Finance has approved $15,000 for the purchase of additional electronic speed limit signs.