Sutter motorists have license to drive 55
Drivers on a rural Sutter County road can pay a bit less attention to the speedomoter within a couple months if county supervisors follow through and enact a speed limit change on South Butte Road.
After a traffic study — prompted by several residents complaining they'd gotten speeding tickets on the road west of Sutter — county engineers recommended the speed limit be boosted to 55 mph, 20 miles faster than it was set at nearly four decades ago.
"I've driven around Sutter, and everything's 45 mph," said Larry Lewis, who lives along South Butte and was one of those who brought the matter to the county's attention. "You get a few bikes out there, but it's really a no-brainer."
The speed limit change, which supervisors will vote on making final at the board's April 24 meeting, would affect the portion of South Butte between just west of Irwin Avenue to Perry Street, outside the community limits of Sutter.
Supervisor Larry Munger, who lives in Sutter, said after some constituents told him the speed limit for the road was too slow, he began monitoring his own speed on the stretch.
"When I looked myself, I was consistently going 50, 55," he said.
County ordinances established the limit at 35 mph in 1973, he said, but such speeds were a bit out of touch with what vehicles can do now.
"Back then, that was pretty fast," he said.
When county civil engineers studied the road, partly at Munger's request, they found 95 percent of the vehicles went faster than 35 mph. Under Caltrans policy directives, the speed limit can be boosted to 55 mph because 85 percent or more of the traffic goes above the listed limit.
Additionally, the survey results suggested radar couldn't be used to enforce any speeding tickets drivers received on the portion of the street, though Munger said such news comes too late for anyone who's already had their case heard in court.
County supervisors approved the first reading of the ordinance on Tuesday evening with a 5-0 vote. No one from the public spoke on the issue, and Munger said he believes most residents along South Butte will actually welcome the change.
"As a matter of fact, a lot of the ones that came to me were residents of that area," he said.
Lewis said he would echo that, especially because most people exceed the limit anyhow.
"The farmers, the residents, they go 45," he said. "You've got some kids and they go 75, but that won't change if you make the speed limit 10."
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