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Zeeland lawmaker tries to give communities more control over speed limits

Rep. Bradley Slagh proposed a bill allowing for communities to round down on their posted speed limits.

Republican State Representative Bradley Slagh is trying to give Michigan communities more authority when it comes to setting their speed limits, by allowing them to round down on their current and future postings.

Under current law, speed limits are set based on the 85 percentile of cars' average speed in the area. Speeds are then rounded up to the nearest 5-mile-per-hour increment. 

"If you round up to 40 in the case that when the 85th percentile is at 37.6 MPH, by rounding up, you're actually increasing over the 85th percentile...If you're over that you're not really doing what the law says," Slagh explained.

Slagh wants cities to have the opportunity to round down in such scenarios, within the same five miles-per-hour increments.

"My premise would be you shouldn’t have to round up, you should be able to round down... It does protect our walkers, our people who are pedestrians, bike riders on roads," Slagh said.

Under the bill, communities would only be able to round down to the nearest five increment speed. If they wanted to push for even lower speeds, Slagh said an official study would have to be done, proving it's necessary.

"You’d have to go through an engineering study that would have to look at all the characteristics of the road -- you know, are there curves? Are there pedestrians? -- and even if that was true you would only be able to go down to the 50th percentile, so half the cars are going that speed. You can't go lower," he explained.

Slagh said the bill is part of a multi-year plan of speed limit reform, as he passed another bill last year which provided a 25 MPH basic speed limit on most residential streets.

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"Reduce speeds and therefore reduce the impact on people, probably reduce the impact on accidents," Slagh said when asked the benefits of lower limits.

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The bill is in early stages, still needing approval from the Committee on Transportation. Slagh said he has received support from law enforcement and various city officials.

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