Most of the back roads in Kent County came into being during colonial times as trails for slow-moving horse-drawn wagons moving among vast tracts of farm land.
Even today, although paved and greatly improved from their original condition, they aren’t meant to be traveled at high speeds.
You’d never know that, however, from the experiences of people living on Westville Road, just east of the Delaware/Maryland line. For them, life alongside the two-lane blacktop sometimes seems like having a grandstand seat at Dover International Speedway.
“This actually is God’s Little Acre out here,” said Christine Ely-Spence, who with her husband Rick lives on the south side of the road. “But you wouldn’t know it with the traffic we get sometimes.”
The Spences and their neighbors, Jeff and Tina Luff, feel speeding cars and trucks are becoming more and more of a problem for people on Westville Road. The Luffs have had two mailboxes mowed down by fast-moving trucks within the past six weeks.
They estimate vehicles sometimes travel up to 60 mph along their roadway,
It’s not just a nuisance, it’s dangerous for children in the area and poses a hazard for area school buses and DART transit vehicles that use a side road to turn around before going into Maryland, Ely-Spence said.
Ely-Spence was contacted by state Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, after he learned of the problem.
“One of the issues we have on these back country roads is that people are not paying attention to the speed limit,” Spiegelman said. “People are not being attentive drivers and sometimes they’ll end up in someone’s yard.”
Maryland traffic authorities have posted a 30 mph speed limit on that side of the border, primarily due to the curving roadway. Westville takes a sharp turn just on the Delaware side of the line, where it follows a relatively straight path where the limit is 40 mph.
Despite the speed limit signs, a number of vehicles still exceed that maximum.
Geoff Sundstrom, DelDOT’s director of public relations, said enforcing that limit is more a matter for police than for his agency.
If DelDOT receives complaints about a particular area, personnel may be sent out to review the area and to review files to see if there is a pattern warranting a change in signage or speed limits, he said.
“But if it’s a simple act of motorists speeding, there’s little if anything we can do,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about people respecting the law and having concern for their own safety and the safety of others.”
Page 2 of 2 - Delaware State Police troopers did pick up patrols of the area after he called, Spiegelman said, but their presence is limited.
“They’ll tell you and I’ll tell you that they just can’t be there all the time,” he said. “It’s just not practical.”
Spiegelman said a representative from his office has contacted DelDOT to request they look at this part of Westville Road to see what can be done.
In the meantime, Ely-Spence she hopes people who learn about the problem will have an attack of conscience.
“We’re hoping they’ll read this and maybe they’ll slow down,” she said.