A team of graduate students from the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy is looking to help the town reduce speeding.
Members of a class called Behavioral Economics for Municipalities are using ideas from their studies to help municipalities across the state.
“The idea is to see if we can take what we’re learning about and apply it to governments,” said Spencer White, who is leading the Duke team in Knightdale.
The class looks at small ways local governments can save money and how to quantify the savings. Studies show, for instance, that a box on a tax form asking if the taxpayer filled it out honestly results in more revenue, White said.
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A four-person team of students began working with the town of Knightdale in August, and the town determined it could use help reducing speeding. Two members of the team graduated in the fall, but the other two will continue on this spring and use their insight to help the town.
The students are working with town officials to conduct speed measurements throughout the community. Covert speed measuring devices are being placed strategically throughout the town over the next few weeks.
The students and town also have begun sending out a survey on speeding to measure townspeople’s attitudes on the subject.
With the speed measurements and surveys, they hope to establish a baseline they can go back to for comparisons as the project wraps up in April, White said.
Police Chief Lawrence Capps said he’s been impressed with the work the students have put in and hopes the study will change behavior regarding speeding.
“Neighborhood speeding, especially, is an issue we frequently deal with,” Capps said. “With the growth we’ve experienced in town, it’s something that we put an emphasis on.”
The town reported that Knightdale police issued 506 speeding citations last year.
After speeding was selected as the topic of study here, the students began working on creative ways to get the message out about the dangers driving too fast poses for neighborhoods.
“The message is going to come from the Knightdale police,” White said, “but we’ll collaborate with them.”
Part of the study involves getting neighborhoods working together to obey the legal limit.
“The idea is that if you get people competing to reduce speeding it will have a positive impact,” White said.
Some kind of prize is planned for the neighborhood that is most successful in reducing speeding, White said, and an event is being planned to recognize the achievement, but details are still being worked out.
“It could be more than one,” White said.
The team has made two visits here so far and plans to make a few more as the study progresses.
White, who is from Chapel Hill and hopes to go into the economic-, community- or workforce-development field after he gets his master’s degree, said he has learned a lot about the town in the past few months.
“I knew that Knightdale was there, but I had no idea how quickly it was growing,” he said.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826