Tom Pierce was driving south from Brunswick on Interstate 295 during Tuesday’s snowstorm – perhaps not below the 45 mph advised by the flashing signs on the highway, but slower than usual. Many other drivers were being less cautious.

“I try to respect it,” the Falmouth resident said. “If not literally, I try to respect the concept. … I was going slower than 90 percent of the traffic.”

The Maine Department of Transportation activates the flashing advisories on I-295 and the Maine Turnpike when the department and state police decide that snow or some other situation makes it too hazardous to drive at normal speed limits, which range from 60 mph to 75 mph. The signs were activated Tuesday afternoon, but drivers rarely adhere to the advisories, police say.

“We wish that they did, but they don’t,” said Maine State Police Cpl. Jessica Shorey.

The 45 mph is a recommendation, not a legal limit, said Trooper Lance McCleish. “It is an advisory. However, should somebody crash or slide off the road, there is always a chance they could be cited for failure to maintain control of their vehicle,” he said.

The flashing signs also are a warning to drivers that even though driving conditions may be OK where they are, they may worsen down the road, police said. McCleish said the signs can only be turned on and off; the speed limits shown on them are pre-set and cannot be changed to fit a particular storm.

Motorists interviewed Wednesday said they take the signs as a reminder to be careful.

“I might not go 45 but I do go slower than normal,” said Marty Wahrer of Scarborough. “I think most people tend to drive faster than it says, closer to regular speed, maybe 55 to 60 instead of 65 to 70.”

Hunter Collins of Richmond drives most of Interstate 295 twice a day, on his way to and from work in Portland. “I go with the flow of traffic,” he said. “I go with the conditions of the road.”

As he headed home Tuesday night, “the roads were fine but people were a problem,” he said. Drivers would brake sharply or drive so slow they posed a hazard to others, he said. Wednesday morning was smooth sailing, even though the 45-mph signs were flashing, he said.

Jean Charron, an occasional highway driver, was driving from Brunswick to Portland on Tuesday evening.

“I didn’t go 45 but I went between 55 and 60,” she said. “Some people were whizzing by me and some people were driving 45 mph.”

Pierce, the Falmouth resident, said the flashing signs primarily are a reminder to use common sense.

“I grew up in northern Maine and I know how to drive in this,” he said, adding that many people don’t drive as carefully as they should. “It’s 45 for a reason.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman


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