Local Voices: ‘Slow Down Farmington’ campaign aims to save lives

Nate Duckett
Farmington City Council
Nate Duckett

There is no doubt by now that you have read about, watched a video of, heard a radio show comment on, or seen the Slow Down Farmington yard signs posted in front yards throughout the city. 
This community awareness and safety campaign was initiated by concerned Farmington residents who were witnessing a continued disregard by drivers of the posted speed limits in their neighborhoods, through school zones, and by our city parks. 
Seeking solutions that did not require us to put speed bumps on every neighborhood street, or post a police officer with a radar gun at every corner, prompted me to do an online search to see how other cities were combating the issue. This led me to the city of Albuquerque which, five years ago, had initiated their own “Slow Down Albuquerque” initiative. 
The feedback that I received from the Albuquerque police department was positive. People appreciated the opportunity to be engaged in helping alleviate the problem. 
The yard signs provided them a voice to drivers in their neighborhoods and they provided the drivers top-of-mind awareness to check their speeds throughout their commute. Believing that this program would serve the same purpose here I proposed the program to our police department. They were eager to work with our community to help curb the issue and with our City Council, which agreed that the problem had reached levels worthy of its own campaign. 
Driving over the posted speed limit is not a new phenomenon. Nationwide data shows that there are more people driving now than ever. The increase in traffic brings a higher rate of speeding. This does not bode well for public safety. Let’s look at auto accident fatality data, for example. 
Based on a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2012-2016, 37 percent of all New Mexico auto accident fatalities were related to speeding.(1) Closer to home, San Juan County’s five-year total was 30 percent, but in 2016 hit 43 percent, and over the last 5 years we rank second in the state behind Bernalillo County for total auto accident fatalities. (2) Ranking second in this data set is not where we want to be and only through an acknowledgement of the problem can we move towards a solution.
Many people have noted that people posting yard signs is not going to miraculously stop people from speeding. That is what speed limit signs are for, right? However, the goal behind the campaign is to promote safety and reduce speeding in residential neighborhoods. It is not a magic cure all for the problem, but another tool that our residents can use to show solidarity behind a message that promotes quality of life.
Since we rolled out the campaign in September I have spoken to dozens of community members who have mentioned that, because of the signs, they are more self-aware of their driving habits and speed in neighborhoods. As your elected representative, your safety and your tax dollars are top priorities for me. I believe we have the power as a community to minimize this issue without having to increase traffic enforcement and street department budgets, which would be much more costly. So, please, talk to your families, to young drivers in your household, ask them to slow down and remind them of the importance of abiding by the speed limits. It’s not just a matter of speed, it’s a matter of respect for our city and the people who live, work, and play here.

1. NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts New Mexico 2012-2016; https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/STSI.htm# 
2. NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts San Juan County 2012-2016; https://cdan.nhtsa.gov/STSI.htm#

This column was written in conjunction with the Community Health Improvement Council’s December Positive Wellness Campaign.