Just how fast is too fast on Clay County roads?
That is the question many residents have been inquiring about lately and Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton recently spoke with The Brazil Times about the issue.
In accordance with Indiana Code 9-21-5-2, the speed limit on a county road -- in areas without a posted limit -- is 55 miles per hour (mph) unless the road is contained in an "urban district," in which case, the limit is 30 mph.
"An 'urban district' is identified as any quarter-mile stretch of road in which business and/or residences have less than 200 feet between them," Heaton said. "Speed limits on county roads fall under state statutes unless they are adjusted by the county itself."
Heaton told The Brazil Times the speed limit on a county road may be increased or decreased depending on the situation, which is also limited by state statutes.
"In order to alter the speed limit on a county road, engineering and a two-day traffic study must be conducted, which can be expensive," Heaton said. "In a traffic study, the number of cars driving the road have to be counted, the peak hours have to be identified and the average speeds have to be officially determined before a possible change in speed limit can be legitimately considered."
Chief Deputy Rob Gambill said there could be situations where the speed limit on a county road can differ depending on the concentration of buildings.
"It's possible there could be areas where the speed limit is 30 mph for a quarter- or half-mile stretch, then go up to 55 mph if part of it runs through an urban district and part does not," Gambill said.
While speeding is an issue in the county, Heaton told The Brazil Times the Clay County Sheriff's Department also watches out for slow vehicles, particularly on Interstate-70.
"It doesn't happen too often, but there are times when we find a vehicle moving too slow for the road it is on," he said. "On I-70, there is actually a minimum speed limit of 45 mph. We occasionally have problems with this, but we have to watch for it because they create a great danger and a potential hazard for other drivers on the road."
However, he added speeding is one of the biggest issues the department receives complaints about.
"We get numerous calls about people speeding, especially on State Road 340 in particular. People seem to fly down the road even though the limit is 40 mph," he said. "On the other side, drivers should always stay aware of what the speed limits are, whether they are posted or not."
While Heaton said he would love it if his department could catch all speeders, he admitted that with a patrol staff of 13, including himself, they cannot be everywhere.
"So far this year, we have had 16,374 calls for service come through dispatch," he said. "Now, not all of the calls generate case reports, but there are quite a few."
While the department may not be able to respond to all calls regarding speeding, information is taken as to the description of the vehicle and time of day if the violation is a regular occurrence.
"Usually, it is a select few who continuously speed," Heaton said.
"With the description of the vehicle and the approximate time of day it tends to happen, we can send someone out to the specific area we get the complaints about."
Heaton told The Brazil Times there are other times when a deputy clocks a vehicle speeding, but does not pursue a stop in order to maintain safety protocols.
"We still have to operate with due regard for the other drivers on the road and keep their safety in mind," he said.
"It is disappointing not to be able to catch all the speeders, but in a situation where chasing one down could put other drivers and/or pedestrians at risk, sometimes it is better to wait because chances are we will catch them speeding again."