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Heidi Shaffer, Published October 24 2010

Fargo resident's homemade traffic sign stresses reduced speed

Joanna Pearson got sick of watching cars rush by her south Fargo home, so she put up a reminder of the neighborhood’s speed limit.

One side of the sign that sits in Pearson’s front lawn along 18th Street South reads, “25 mph. Aren’t U worth it?”

Southbound drivers get another message: “Keep us all alive … Drive 25.”

The idea behind the sign was simply to get more drivers to slow down and pay attention, the 42-year-old said.

An accident this summer in front of Pearson’s house at 2611 18th St. S. made her more aware of the neighborhood’s dangerous drivers.

“It just started me thinking that it could have been so much worse,” she said. “I jokingly said, ‘I’m going to put a sign out there.’ ”

Fargo has seen five traffic fatalities in October, and Police Chief Keith Ternes pledged last week to refocus patrol efforts on traffic enforcement.

Pearson didn’t put the sign up in response to the recent string of crashes but said she hopes the message will raise drivers’ awareness.

Neighbors tell Pearson they are glad to see the sign, and she’s noticed a few more brake lights flash since the fixture went up about two weeks ago.

Dan Bach, one of Pearson’s neighbors, built the stand for her and supports the effort to slow down drivers.

“People just go by way too fast,” he said.

The sign, made out of plywood and vinyl tablecloths, cost Pearson less than $15, and she plans to change the message every couple of weeks.

One of her ideas: “Expensive car? Still 25.”

Pearson called and e-mailed the police department a handful of times this year to report the problem.

Fargo police set up patrols in the area and used a digital speed wagon, which indicates drivers’ speeds as they approach, for a couple of days following Pearson’s complaints, said Sgt. Mike Bernier.

The department gets multiple calls each day about speeders in residential neighborhoods, and officers generally will patrol and ticket drivers to get traffic to slow down in those areas, Bernier said.

“It’s a big city, and we can’t be everywhere at once,” he said. “But we certainly try to get out and address the situations.”

A concentrated effort usually works to slow down drivers, but the change is often short-lived, Bernier said.

“Unless you give it constant, constant attention, it’s pretty difficult to maintain,” he said.

If speeding remains a problem in a certain area, police will work with city engineers to address it.

Fargo installed new medians this summer along 18th Avenue South from University Drive to Fifth Street in an attempt to curb speeding after neighbors petitioned for stop signs to slow traffic, said Jeremy Gorden, city traffic engineer.

The medians narrow the roadway, slowing cars and assisting pedestrians, Gorden said.

Bernier said a sign such as Pearson’s is also effective at slowing drivers.

“It gets you to think a little bit,” Bernier said. “(It’s) not a bad idea at all.”

Pearson has yet to hear any negative feedback on the sign, which she hopes will have a lasting effect along her street.

“I just don’t think that anybody’s life is worth giving up because they were going too fast to get to work,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511