In a Flash
Off the Wall, February 8
, 2013

There I was, standing on the outer edge of the speedway thinking, should I cross over to the other side or wait a little longer and then make a run for it. As I looked up the hill, I saw a dirty, older model Chevy head in my direction. Beside it, was a gray pickup, Dodge, maybe or even a Ford. Couldn’t be sure. After all, what do I know about either of them. It’s been over 39 years since I overlooked the VW sport-model steering wheel, on the way to an accident to perform my trade – get good ‘snaps’ for the newspaper for which I worked and then click off a collection of photos that would be used for future accident investigative research.

But I’m not here to talk about my past, at least in this column, only then to say, the reason for that explanatory mish-mash was to spell out that I haven’t driven for such a long time and that I’ve lost track and really don’t care who makes what as to vehicular identification any more.

As I stood watching one driver trying to speed faster down the hill toward me, I quickly wondered, “Gee, I forgot to get popcorn. I could munch away on it and time would go faster – maybe not as fast as the cars, though. In a flash, they zoomed by.

It doesn’t take much to conclude that I am not a NASCAR fan, not that I have anything against those who are. I just believe that there are places to race, and our area roads are not designed for that type of travel.

The place I was standing, trying to cross was at the intersection, was at the corner of Ligonier and Fairmont Streets. I’ll never forget what I described above. Imagine feeling unsafe, two blocks away from a school zone.

Often upon walking to or from downtown, I often stop and chat with people along the way. A couple of weeks ago, a senior citizen and I decided to compare notes on how people drive even before the parents start bringing their kids to school in the morning and he said, “I couldn’t believe it. Here we were, standing right in front of the school, when a guy in a black pickup truck tore past the school going at least 55 mph.”

I am pretty sure I am right, but just to make sure I was, I approached a fire policeman on the subject, who was parked in front of the school as to the speed requirements. He backed up what always what I thought has been standard knowledge to me – “15 m.p.h. when the yellow light is blinking, and 25 when it is not,” he said. When a police officer is present with flashing lights, drivers do slow down. Shortly before or after all children are assumed in the building, the roadway turns into the ‘Ligonier Street Speedway.’

To back up this statement, I was talking to a friend I’ll identify as ‘Chum’ who told me a story that somewhat amazed me. He had just gotten off St. Rt. 30 and started to head into Latrobe following a school bus. As it turned onto Ligonier St. from Rt. 981 and headed toward town, it picked up speed. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It must have been going 55,” he said. “I followed it, and clocked it, but then I was so worried someone would pull out and hit me from a side street that I didn’t get close enough to get a bus number or license plate.”

Hey, I live on the Ligonier Street Speedway. I know what it is like to watch vehicles zoom into a school zone doing the day hours. Maybe today’s cars are built to travel at higher speeds, that people automatically don’t think when it comes to city driving.

But heading into a school zone, one has to put his thinking cap on. A kid could run across the street, late for school, or coming from it. We all don’t know what goes through the minds of youngsters even though we all were that age once.

I have yet to understand since motorists travel at high speeds, they must have seen street signs posted at 55, 40 or 35 m.p.h. throughout Latrobe. I have yet to find one. Go figure. What gives them the right, anyway? In my opinion, I can’t fathom such thinking.

Do you think the city saved money by buying all 25 m.p.h. signs at once? Is that the reason one does not see any other limit signs? Yeah, I bet that’s it. It has to be. What other reason would there be for city streets to be posted with speeds over that amount?

- Paul J. Volkmann
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