If you are a motorist driving over the speed limit on a section of Charlotte Creek Road in the town of Davenport, Highway Superintendent Fred Utter’s message for you is: “Hey Stupid Slow Down!”
Utter personally paid for two white signs with that phrase after getting Davenport Town Board approval in August. The signs went up in the eastbound and westbound lanes, along with two standard signs the board agreed to pay for, earlier this week, Utter said.
Utter said the signs are in response to a dangerous situation he heard about in August. A motorist was driving east on the road at the time, less than a mile from the intersection with county Route 11. When rounding the curve, she had to slam on the car brakes when she saw a school bus unloading, he said.
About 120 feet of skid marks are still at the site, showing the car had to steer toward a ditch to avoid hitting the bus, Utter said. At the time a preschooler and his mother were walking away from the site.
Utter, who also drives bus for the Charlotte Valley Central School District and is the town fire chief, heard about the situation from the bus driver involved in the near-accident. Utter decided to personally pay for the white signs, about $40 each, to help get it done.
“If it saves somebody’s life, it’s worth it,” he said. He chose the language to get people’s attention, he said. “I’m just trying to get a point across. Sometimes you need to be blunt.”
The message seems to be getting through to people, he said. He said he’s heard only had one complaint, while most people congratulate him.
“It’s meant for people who don’t obey signs,” he said.
Davenport Supervisor Dennis Valente said because of the curious additions to the roadway, people are now discussing a serious safety issue. He has gotten a couple of complaints, but most people like the signs, he said.
Utter and his crew have done a lot of work improving the roads, Valente said, and some drivers are taking advantage of the situation and speeding, including in the Charlotte Creek Road area.
The board approved Utter’s initiative because it was thought the “shock value” would draw attention to a serious situation, Valente said. However, he added, “they are rude” and he wouldn’t want them to be fixtures in the town. Valente said he will soon be polling the board to see if it wants to make changes. He likes the additional signage and said a solution could involve using something to cover up the offensive language, while leaving the standard messages.
One person who hopes both signs stay is the parent who was picking up her child when the aforementioned car skidded. Brooke Calchi said she complained to the bus driver, who must have passed the message along. She said she has seen drivers slow down when they see the signs.
Calchi said she hasn’t met Utter, but “it makes me feel great, being new to the district. It’s comforting to know he cares for the the kids.”
Delaware County Sheriff Thomas Mills said he has heard of the signs and said he is aware of the problems that come from improving town roads. Any means of trying to make people more alert about speeding could be valuable, he said. He will be encouraging his patrols to check the situation and see if more needs to be done to control it.
Mill said he supports the efforts of the town board.
“Maybe people will wake up to the danger,” he said.