There are few issues in Columbia County neighborhoods more polarizing than the debate over speed humps.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross last week acknowledged as much during discussions about installing more of the traffic-control devices.
"Most of us don't like speed humps because we like to speed," Cross said.
There are plenty of other reasons not to like them. In addition to slowing cars, they also have the potential for slowing emergency responders. They're noisy, especially as cars bump over them at night. And on roads without curbs, they invite damage to the shoulders from motorists trying to avoid them.
But it is undeniable that they work. One of the strongest boosters of speed humps is Sheriff Clay Whittle, who has pointed out that speed humps slow down traffic in neighborhoods where deputies can't be posted 24 hours a day.
They're also important in that regard because the more common way to slow speeders is for deputies to issue citations. But in neighborhoods with low speed limits, the state typically does not permit local cops to use radar - so there's no way to run speed enforcement.
Speed humps, then, handle that chore. Sure, as one detractor pointed out at last week's commission meeting where officials approved installing the devices in three neighborhoods, speed humps "punish" all law-abiding residents of a street in an effort to slow down speeders.
But as Cross points out, just about everyone speeds at some time.
That's why, despite their effectiveness - or, perhaps, because of it - motorists in general dislike speed humps. In fact, it might be enlightening to see whether the county's installation program could survive the test of a popular vote.
Currently, though, residents who dislike speed humps are both divided and easily conquered. Of all the speakers last week opposing speed humps, each was fighting only the humps on his or her street. No one shows up to complain about the devices in other neighborhoods.
As a result, commissioners hear only a few complaints when a new street is added. They never hear, all at once, from all speed hump critics.
We'd suggest, then, if enough citizens really do oppose the humps, the way to change the program is to elect commissioners who promise to end it, or to speak up anytime a new street is added - not just their own.
A third option would be to accept reality: They're protecting us from ourselves - and it wouldn't kill any of us to slow down just a little.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.