Our view: Slow down and vote

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If only voting could inspire as much interest as the speed limit between Craig and Meeker.

Hundreds of people have signed a petition opposed to a speed limit change on Co-l-orado High-way 13.

We're all for activism and lobbying government officials for change. But when the issue is public safety, majority rule isn't always the best way to form public policy.

People obviously feel strongly about keeping the speed limit at 65 mph at night, despite the hazards of wildlife on or near the road.

The state troopers who patrol that stretch of road are in favor of slowing the traffic to prevent animal-related accidents.

Sgt. Gary Meirose of the Colorado State Patrol said that vehicle crashes with animals make up more than three-fourths of the accidents on the roads. Officers think that motorists traveling 65 mph may not have enough time to avoid collisions with deer and elk.

"We just want to slow people down," Meirose said. "We'll still have problems with the road, but we figure if people slow down at night, it could help."

Speed limits for Colorado 13 have been 65 mph for at least about the past five years, Meirose said. They were increased from 55 mph.

Charles Meyer, regional transportation operations engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said nighttime speed limits are being discussed in general for the state.

Traffic and speed studies -- which may take as long as a year -- must be completed before speed limits can be changed on any state roadways. Meyer said he's not aware that a formal study has been proposed for Colorado 13, though the issue has been discussed.

So even though a decision is a year or more away, some grass-roots activists have been circulating a petition asking officials to leave things alone. The petition suggests that if this speed change is allowed to happen, that other roadways in Northwest Colorado could follow suit.

As a public agency, the Colorado Department of Transportation accepts public comment, CDOT Traffic Engineer Jim Nall said. But the decision to change the speed limit would be based on engineering research.

As Nall pointed out, what if 1,000 people signed a petition asking for the speed limit to be raised to 95 mph? Such decisions are based on scientific factors, not simply the will of the people.

However, we're still impressed that so many people are participating in the process of addressing the government. It's a timely reminder that democracy requires the participation of those who are governed.

We have an election next week to choose a mayor and City Council representatives. The candidates in these positions will have the authority to decide issues just as important -- if not more so -- as a person's right to get to Meeker in less than an hour after nightfall.

The polling location is City Hall.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The registration period for new voters is over, but if you voted in November's general election, you should be eligible to vote, City Clerk Shirley Seely said.

If you really want to make a difference, vote in the election.

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