The Texas Department of Transportation is installing new speed limit signs all across Texoma. These new signs raise the speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour. However, one sign installed on a one-mile stretch off Highway 79 is causing some controversy.
Residents who live on that one mile stretch in Dean just inside the Clay County line are concerned for their safety. Drivers are coming down the highway at top speeds, often driving recklessly.
"They're running us over almost. They come flying through and I've seen them go over the gravel on the other side of the road because they try to avoid us residents who are trying to turn into our driveways" said resident Mike Phillips.
For years, Phillips and other residents have been pushing to reduce the speed limit to 55 miles per hour after witnessing multiple accidents including one fatality.
"One of our residents was killed in an accident as he pulled out of his driveway in 2008. About a week ago, there was a truck that flipped over right down the road here just 2 houses down" said Phillips.
Before installing the sign, TxDOT conducted a speed survey for that particular area but unfortunately did not find a reason to warrant the speed reduction. The speed study also looked at points of conflict such as roads that intersect the highway, the number of driveways, businesses, homes, schools and fatality counts.
According to TxDOT Public Information Officer Adele Lewis, "we do a speed study where we flag all the cars and see how fast they're going. It goes into a formula and we find out what the 85th percentile is of the speed people are going. We did not see any reason why 79 in Clay County shouldn't comply with the law" she said.
Although the result was not what residents hoped for, Phillips says he will continue to push for awareness and drivers to drive safely.
"I'd like to see something done about this speed. It's just too fast and there's too many people that live here. It's just another accident waiting to happen" he said.
Currently, 44 homes are located on that one mile stretch off Highway 79. This location is also sandwiched by two areas that only allow speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
As more and more speed limit signs are put up, TxDOT is reminding motorists to be aware of road conditions, buckle up and put cell phones away while driving. Law enforcement will also be closely monitoring areas with newly installed signs.
These speed limit changes come from a state law in effect allowing TxDOT to create higher speed limits on any state highway if found to be reasonable and safe through an engineering study. This law was passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature in September of 2011. Each speed limit change must be approved by the Texas Transportation Commission before the installation of the sign.