Council lowers speed limits


By LPR Staff

Working in connection with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the City of Lockhart has chosen to change the speed limit over several areas of Highway 183 in Lockhart.
In a unanimous vote, the Council chose to institute a “Step Up, Step Down” program calling for a gradual transition from highway speeds to

“in-town” speeds on both northbound and southbound Highway 183.
The changes include a reduction to 55 mph from the Lockhart city limits to Flores Street and from MLK Jr. Industrial Boulevard to the Summerside addition for southbound travel and from the city limits to Smith Supply and from China Street to the city limits for northbound travel. Several other areas will also be affected by the change.
“We were having a considerable amount of problems with speed-related accidents, but after we initiated the STEP program, those numbers went down,” said Lockhart Police Chief Frank Coggins. “We still have problems with drivers’ inattention while they’re trying to operate a CD player or talk on the phone, and speed is often a factor in those, as well.”
Coggins said the new limits will provide for longer stretches of safer speeds for drivers within the Lockhart city limits. He also agreed that the police department would allow some lenience for drivers to become accustomed to the changes.
According to assistant city manager Vance Rodgers, TxDOT should have signs indicating the new speed limits installed within 30 days. However, the department is not likely to provide flags or other means to attract attention to the signs.
“I would like to ask [TxDOT] if we can put flags on the signs within the city limits,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ll let us do that because the flags are a distraction.”
Coggins also presented the state-mandated Racial Profiling Report for 2004. The report is meant to allow law enforcement agencies to identify potential problems with racial profiling.
According to Coggins, studies performed in the early-1990s proved that more than 50 percent of the population believes that individuals of color are more likely to be approached by police officers than Caucasians.
“This is not an embraced practice,” Coggins said. “But it is clearly the perception of the public that the problem exists.”
The report identified a marked change in Lockhart Police Department activity over the last three years. Out of a total of 7,949 contacts in 2004, nearly 55 percent were Caucasian drivers, 35.17 percent were Hispanic and 9.1 percent were African-American. However, only 2.5 percent of the Caucasian drivers stopped were searched, as opposed to 5.8 percent of Hispanics and 7.6 percent of African-Americans. Those percentages changed significantly from 2002, when 45.6 percent of drivers were Caucasian, 43.1 percent were Hispanic and 9.9 percent were African-American.
Coggins said although the department needs to give some attention to the numbers, they are nearing the overall population percentages.
In brief council news:
The city is preparing for a citywide cleanup in April and hazardous household materials pickup in May.
Only two candidates have filed for election to the city council in May. The deadline for filing is March 7, 2005.


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