40 is the new 60: Slow down, stay safe

New speed limit signs have been posted on the roadside just outside Eriswell, near RAF Lakenheath, England. The speed limit along the C603 Eriswell Road, between RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, has officially been reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph, effective immediately. Team Mildenhall members are reminded to slow down and stay safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

New speed limit signs have been posted on the roadside just outside Eriswell, near RAF Lakenheath, England. The speed limit along the C603 Eriswell Road, between RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, has officially been reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph, effective immediately. Team Mildenhall members are reminded to slow down and stay safe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

New speed limit signs have been posted on the roadside just entering Holywell Row, near RAF Mildenhall, England. The speed limit along the C603 Eriswell Road, between RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, has officially been reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph, effective immediately. It’s illegal under UK law to drive faster than the posted speed limit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

New speed limit signs have been posted on the roadside just entering Holywell Row, near RAF Mildenhall, England. The speed limit along the C603 Eriswell Road, between RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, has officially been reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph, effective immediately. It’s illegal under UK law to drive faster than the posted speed limit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The speed limit along the C602 Eriswell Road, between RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, has officially been reduced from 60 mph to 40 mph, effective immediately.

Signs are now in place to serve as a visual reminder of the change.

Although no lives have been lost, there have been several close calls along Eriswell Road, often with speed as a contributing factor. The mandatory reduction in speed is a life-saving initiative and should see the number of accidents reduced.

“Between 2012 and 2014, our Airmen were involved in 61 traffic accidents – 33 percent of those traffic mishaps occurred on Eriswell Road,” said Master Sgt. Lucas Shay, 100th Air Refueling Wing Safety superintendent. “That trend continued through 2015 and 2016, and it became evident that something needed to be done before somebody was killed on that one-mile stretch of road. Mathematically, the speed reduction adds only 30 seconds to the drive time. That’s it. On the other hand, reducing the speed from 60 mph to 40 mph reduces the probability of fatality in the event of an accident by 40 percent.”

Additionally, the RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath no-passing policy is in place to enhance the safety of Airmen, dependents, civilians and the host-nation community. The policy states that overtaking (passing) is prohibited within a 10-mile radius of RAF Lakenheath on any single carriageway, unless all three of the following exceptions apply:

• UK traffic laws allow overtaking on the affected stretch of road.
• The vehicle in front of you is travelling less than 30 mph.
• It’s safe to do so.

Anyone violating these restrictions may face serious actions under Article 92 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and Airmen, Department of Defense civilians or dependents may also lose their 3rd Air Force/U.S. Air Forces in Europe Form 435 Driving Permit.

“It’s long overdue. We’ve had enough major accidents along that road and something needed to change,” said Master Sgt. Jason Gamble, 100th ARW Inspector General unit inspector. “Whenever you get here, that’s the number one road you’re told to take care on.

“I already drove at 40 mph at the most before the speed limit changed; 35 to 40 mph is all I go. I can’t imagine going 60 mph along there, around the turns and with the trees and shrubs on the edge of the road. Cyclists ride along there, and there have been Airmen who don’t know any better who have walked along that road trying to get to an appointment at RAF Lakenheath,” he said.

Shay explained that it’s extremely rare for local governments to reduce a speed limit without a fatality, and that the change was made on the weight of all the close calls that have happened along the C602.

“A reduced speed limit won’t magically make things safer,” explained Shay, “and all of the administrative controls in the world won’t help if we’re not paying attention. We’ve got to avoid the temptation of distracted driving. Going forward, I believe that this change will save lives.”