County officials are toying with the notion of lowering speed limits on many rural roads.

Commission president Kellie Streeter on Tuesday brought before her fellow commissioners a proposal that would reduce the speed limit along a stretch of Freelandville Road from 55 mph down to 40 mph.

Streeter said she's received multiple complaints about people driving at excessive speeds along that road, particularly between Freelandville and Edwardsport.

The current speed limit is 55 mph per state law.

“But like with many county roads, 55 (mph) just isn't realistic,” she said. “There's a significant number of houses along that road, a daycare, too.

“The roads are narrow, people are speeding,” Streeter said. “It's dangerous.”

Highway superintendent Benji Boyd agreed, saying he couldn't imagine driving that fast on any of the county's roads, even though state law allows for it.

“I wouldn't drive 55 mph on any county road,” he said with a firm shake of his head. “I wouldn't drive that fast on any county road around, let alone Knox.”

State law says if there is no posted speed limit, by default the limit is 55 mph.

Local elected officials can lower those speed limits with a county ordinance — they have to hold a public hearing to do so — but they can't increase the speed limit to above 55.

Tuesday's discussion turned to the possibility of adopting an ordinance that would give all county roads, unless otherwise posted, a speed limit of 45 mph.

The commissioners thought that might make things safer all around.

Law enforcement officials, however, cautioned them over taking such a step, not because they didn't think it was a good idea but because not only would it be difficult to enforce, the penalties don't pack as great a punch.

Sheriff Doug Vantlin said when the limit is set by the state, law enforcement officials can issue a citation that, in addition to requiring a fine, also results in the loss of points to a person's driver's license.

If the county changes that speed limit, the loss of points goes away.

“So instead of losing points on a license, it's just a fine,” he said, to which former sheriff Mike Morris, now county auditor, nodded his head in agreement.

“Instead of getting hit with points and money, you just get hit with the money,” Vantlin said.

Still, Streeter wanted to move forward with her original proposal of lowering the speed limit along Freelandville Road between “Jones Gap” and Indiana 58 to 40 mph.

County attorney Andrew Porter will now draft an ordinance reflecting the change and will arrange for the advertisement of a public hearing. It will then be up to the commissioners to hear feedback and make a decision one way or another.

They also didn't rule out the possibility of pursuing a county ordinance that would lower the speed limits on all county roads to 45 mph, unless otherwise posted.

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What would be the point? They don't enforce the limits we have on country roads now. There are not enough deputies to patrol all the roads. They should be patrolling those where speeding is the norm, such as Hart Street Road and Hickory Corner Road.

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