The crosswalk at 12 Mile Road and Edward Avenue would normally be used by students attending John Page Middle School in Madison Heights, but school was closed due to cold Jan. 17. Officials in Madison Heights want to study traffic in the city in order to improve motorist and pedestrian safety.

The crosswalk at 12 Mile Road and Edward Avenue would normally be used by students attending John Page Middle School in Madison Heights, but school was closed due to cold Jan. 17. Officials in Madison Heights want to study traffic in the city in order to improve motorist and pedestrian safety.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Officials set sights on improved traffic safety for 2024

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published January 23, 2024


MADISON HEIGHTS — Improved lighting, extra signage, adjusted speed limits, more police or crossing guards. There are many ways to tackle traffic safety, and policymakers in Madison Heights cite it as a high priority this year.

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem, said that he wants to create a task force that would study traffic patterns and accidents in the community, and then advise the City Council about possible solutions. He would also like to see the committee given a certain budget, within which they could implement ideas.

“This one-time task force would include representatives from law enforcement, our schools, and would really look at the issue from a macro standpoint,” Bliss said. “I have also asked for about $50,000 in the budget to directly implement their solutions.

“Maybe there’s a need for an additional crossing guard, or maybe an area could be a school zone where speed limits are reduced during the day. Or maybe it’s a matter of extra lighting at night,” he said. “I think studying this would allow us to find small improvements that could be made across the city to make everyone safer. The task force would be able to look at all the data: Where are the accidents occurring? Are there any trends we can monitor? The ways things have always been does not necessarily mean it’s the best way now.”

He also emphasized that the group would not have to use all the money set aside for their ideas, and that they would likely use grants to reduce the cost. But he said it’s important that they have those resources available.

“If you start a task force without any funds to implement solutions, you’re not really moving the needle since they won’t feel anything can come from it,” Bliss said. “I think this exercise is the very point and purpose of government, which is to ensure the safety of all.”

In late September, the City Council approved the addition of more than 50 new streetlights along the Madison Heights side of Dequindre between 11 Mile and 13 Mile roads, better illuminating the roadway for drivers and pedestrians alike.

Earlier that same month, there were back-to-back incidents that drew widespread concern. The first was Sept. 13, on Dequindre south of 12 Mile Road, in which a Clinton Township man was found unresponsive after a hit and run. The second incident happened the following day, when police responded to a nonfatal accident involving a girl, 13, who was struck at a crosswalk at 12 Mile and Milton Avenue.

Madison Heights Police Chief Brent LeMerise said many cases boil down to reckless driving.

“It seems to me that these issues will always persist because of impatient drivers,” the chief said in an email. “If drivers planned their routes accordingly or appropriately using technology available to them, there would be no need to feel rushed.

“Despite the recent law prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving, we still see this as a concern for those driving in Madison Heights,” he added.

LeMerise said that he urges drivers to plan ahead and pay attention to their surroundings.

“Reading notifications and replying can wait until you arrive at your destination. … Everyone around you is relying on you to remain focused on the task at hand: driving safely,” he said.

Madison Heights Police Det. Lt. David Koehler said that most complaints about speeding come from citizens on residential streets, which officers are then assigned to monitor.

“It is difficult to determine whether they are trending up or down,” Koehler said in an email. “The Police Department doesn’t have a dedicated traffic bureau. Officers enforce traffic laws when time allows between calls for service. Officers also work traffic-related detail on overtime.

“Society, in general, appears to have become quicker-paced,” he observed. “People are rushing everywhere. Add to that the distractions while driving, and accidents happen.”

He said that the state’s years-long “Modernize I-75” project that is now concluding caused an increase in accidents and complaints.

“Most traffic violation complaints involved residents complaining about (motorists) driving on residential streets,” Koehler said. “Many of these residential streets were used as cut-throughs by traffic avoiding the heavier traffic conditions caused by the construction on I-75.”

David Soltis, a member of the Madison Heights City Council, said that speed humps might help in the neighborhoods, forcing drivers to slow down to navigate them. Soltis once worked as an ambulance driver and said speed humps are perfectly safe for emergency responders to handle.

“I think speed humps have the potential to slow down speeding drivers in neighborhoods where kids may be walking to school. I think it’s worth looking into here,” Soltis said.

But he also lamented how many pedestrians don’t take the traffic around them seriously.

“The younger ones are running across busy streets, and there are adults — I see it all the time — who practically dare you to hit them as they walk across. So my first thought was to have more police set up in key parking lots, watching for them, but they can’t do it 24/7. And I’m sure the frequency of jaywalking and speeding through reduces when they are there, but once they are gone, it goes back to normal,” Soltis said. “Still, it wouldn’t hurt to bring together people of certain expertise to figure out solutions. Our top priority is public safety in Madison Heights.”