A homeowner raised concerns about speeding cars then one nearly hit his home

BALTIMORE — A Sykesville homeowner wants the speed limit lowered on a stretch of road outside his home. He shared his concerns with the state over a year ago, but he said nothing changed then a car came crashing through his fence.

Ben Schaeffer lives along Maryland Route 97 near the exit ramp of I-70. Typically, there’s a fence in front of his home, but currently, there’s a gap and a sign in the ground.

“It says look, look what speeding did to our fence. Technically, my 11-year-old did that with stickers. My wife just stuck it in the ground,” said Schaeffer.

On July 15, around 2 a.m. Schaeffer, his wife, and two kids awoke to a car in their front yard.

“Came across the road, crossed the median, across the shoulder, and ended up here,” Schaeffer gestured.

Howard County Police said they can’t determine if it was due to speeding with rain that night, but Schaeffer, the owner of Daisy Import Auto Care in Woodbine and a former race car builder, is confident speed played a role. And he’s been warning about drivers traveling at excessive speeds outside of his home.

“You know, this could be easily fixed. And I’ve tried for a year and a half with the state. And I feel like I need your help,” Schaeffer told WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

WMAR-2 News contacted the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA). A SHA spokesperson said in response to Schaeffer’s concerns, a speed study was conducted last August.

Of the more than 12,000 vehicles that traveled on that roadway during that time, just over 7 percent exceeded the 50 mph speed limit and 85 percent of drivers traveled at 47.87 miles per hour.

“Across the engineering industry, that’s known as like, that’s what this road is comfortable at. When most people are driving that’s a safe speed for reliable operations to reduce speed differential cars going too fast and too slow,” explained Andrew Radcliffe, a district 7 engineer with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

While state law sets speed limits at 30 miles per hour for undivided highways in residential districts, Radcliffe said this section doesn’t meet their criteria.

“You mentioned comfort with drivers, but what about safety for residents?” Sofastaii asked Radcliffe.
“No understood. Yeah, it can be it can be a little tricky when you live close to a high-volume road like that,” Radcliffe responded. “It’s a fine balance and it can be a touchy subject and we really have to kind of bounce the community concerns and also look at how the road is operating.”

Radcliffe added that they have considered all the factors, and they just received approval to lower the speed limit to 40 miles per hour.

“You know, safety in terms of school bus operations, and how people were driving, and we looked at it a little further. And one thing in recent years, it’s come up in terms of how we view speed limits, is looking a lot more at the context of the environment too,” said Radcliffe.

Since the car accident, Schaeffer has added a barrier of trees, he’s rebuilding the fence, and plans to follow up with police for enforcement once the new speed limit signs are up. However, he still worries about his kids and his home.

“It’s a different thing now when you go to bed, you wonder, you know, how safe are you?” Shaeffer said.

Schaeffer also requested speed cameras to fine drivers traveling at excessive speeds. By law, SHA can only place speed cameras in work zones or school zones unless there’s legislative approval.

SHA also informed Schaeffer that the new 40 mph speed limit signs will be installed before the end of August ahead of the upcoming school year.

Residents with concerns about speeding or other issues on a state roadway can file a customer service request online by clicking here.

SHA also has more information on their website detailing how speed limits are set and when they conduct traffic engineering studies.