How To Slow Traffic Down On Your Quiet Street

“Hey, Christine. Is that your blue car I see speed past my house after school every day?” At 16, it might not have mattered who was asking, the answer was likely “yes.” On this day, it was a popular young teacher who had pulled me aside in a crowded hallway, his demeanor bordering on anger.

I don’t remember his exact words but the gist was that he and his wife were fed up with my reckless driving and feared for their two young children who liked to play outside.

I don’t think he blinked while he spoke and neither did I. I was deeply humiliated, purple with embarrassment, and extremely apologetic. 

I took care to drive 5 mph below the speed limit past his house from that day on. In fact, I’ve never sped through a residential area since. The fury boiling just below the surface of that conversation has stuck with me my entire life.

Kids playing in a cul-de-sac in a wagon

With two young kids of my own, I now fully comprehend the range of emotions my neighbors must have been feeling. I live in a mostly quiet cul-de-sac tucked in the back of our subdivision. Kids from all over the sub like to play and ride bikes in front of my house because there’s very little traffic. At any given time, my kids can walk outside and there’s usually someone to play with.

We’ve taken a few precautions to keep our street safe starting with the kids. It’s hammered in their heads to watch for cars before they leave the driveway. Look, listen, and pay attention. They’re all pretty good about it, but it just takes the one time they’re not and that’s it.

So, we make the kids as visible as possible. Any bikes or pedal cars that are small are fitted with tall, bright orange flags. Helmets are non-negotiable.

To cover all our bases, a neighbor purchased “SLOW! CHILDREN AT PLAY!” signs to caution drivers. I think their ubiquity often causes them to be ignored. So when the kids are outside, we sometimes set a traffic cone in the road because cars will almost always slow down for a construction sign, but not a group of small children.

Slow, Children at Play signDespite all our efforts, we still get the occasional speeder. A few weeks ago, I noticed a little Jeep ignore all the signs and fly past my house, spin around the circle on two wheels, and fly by again. Thankfully, no kids were outside.

Since then, I’ve noticed the same driver fly by multiple times, sometimes sitting at the stop sign on his phone, sometimes blowing right through the intersection without stopping. I was able to get a picture of his plate and thought about calling the cops. I also considered knocking on his door and talking to his parents since he looks young and lives in our sub.

Then I thought back to that day in the hall while my neighbor fought to keep his cool as he told me to slow down before I killed one of his kids. I remember my heart pounding in my ears and feeling every ounce of his fear. I remember that I haven’t gone one mile over the speed limit through a subdivision since that day.

So the next time he drove by, I walked outside while he spun on two wheels in our quiet little cul-de-sac and stood in the road to stop him before he could speed away. He barely cracked his window while I yelled as if my kids’ lives depended on it because they do. I needed him to feel my anger, fear, and frustration. He didn’t blink while I spoke and neither did I.

I let him know I’ve seen him speeding down the road for weeks where my kids play. I pointed to every house that has kids and told him he’s going to hit one of them if he doesn’t slow down.

That day I wasn’t just yelling as a frightened parent, but also as a former punk kid who had learned her lesson the easy way. I hoped my words would do the same for him.

I’m not encouraging anyone to walk into the street and confront speeders. It’s often better to get a plate number and call the cops. We’ve done that too. As a result, the police have made it a point to drive through our neighborhood a few times a week to let their presence be known.

If you know who it is, and it’s a kid who just doesn’t understand the life-altering consequences of their actions, don’t discount scaring the ignorance out of them. It worked for me and the little Jeep driver I haven’t seen speed since.