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Local, state leaders consider how to make roadways safer

U.S. 30 and Mississippi St., as seen by an INDOT traffic camera.
U.S. 30 and Mississippi St., as seen by an INDOT traffic camera.

Traffic safety is a growing concern in Merrillville.

During last week's town council meeting, resident Ursula Peppers said her north side neighborhood is becoming like a drag strip. "There's a four-way stop sign, and nobody stops, either direction," Peppers told council members. "The buses don't even stop. It's just really, like, 'go for it.' I just sit out there and watch."

Merrillville Police say they have stepped up enforcement.

Chief Kosta Nuses said his department has issued about 300 more tickets in the past month than the month before, after targeting about 25 problem areas. "It's working," Nuses told council members. "Just not enough of us, and I think people have forgotten how to drive properly."

Traffic safety is also a concern statewide. Traffic fatalities are up 17 percent over the last four years, while the number of speeding tickets and warnings went down.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter blames distracted driving, speed and the COVID-19 pandemic for making roads less safe. "Every time we have a fatal crash, we review it, and we try and figure out what is it that we could have done differently," Carter told reporters in Lowell last week. "Many of them, we've found, would've happened whether we were there or not."

Carter said his agency has been looking at staffing levels, to try to put troopers where the most calls are. But there are several million miles of roadway and only 535 troopers. "These young troopers, men and women both, especially at this district, there's not much free time, and we have less troopers today than we've had in our history in this area," Carter said.

In Merrillville, the town has been trying to slow down speeding vehicles with speed bumps and traffic signs. But town council member Jeff Minchuk, who chairs the council's public safety committee, said he's still getting a lot of calls. He noted that the town is planning a traffic study, to come up with a more comprehensive solution.

"I know that everybody sees the problems out there. We see the problems out there, as well," Munchuk said. "We are trying to attack this problem. We're going to do what we can to hopefully bring it down, so hang in there with us, please."

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.