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Studies show that adjusting speeds by as little as 2 to 5 mph may save lives in pedestrian-related accidents. Photos: Information Display Co.
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Scheduled to turn on automatically during school hours, a radar display takes the guesswork out of speed limits.

Scheduling and remote programming capabilities are two other features to consider. In simple displays, scheduling may mean automatically turning the sign off and on. More sophisticated models allow multiple operations for various times throughout the day, week, or month.

For example, California's Santa Clara County recently installed radar speed signs with GPS-controlled auto-timers around school zones. The timers are synchronized so all signs display the same school-zone speed limits at the exact same times.

Recent developments include cellular technology that allows a complete inventory of signs to be monitored and scheduled from a single remote office.

Although design and feature considerations require careful review, some fundamental factors can help narrow the field.

  • The manufacturer — Does the company have a track record? Can it provide customer references? Does it specialize in traffic-calming technology or does it market other products?
  • Warranty —Top-rated models will offer a warranty of two years on the unit and eight years or more on the LEDs. Make sure the manufacturer can stand behind the warranty. Is the company profitable? How long has it been in business?
  • Approval list — Some states, such as California and Florida, compile lists of approved products that have undergone a rigorous evaluation. Choosing products from such a list is usually a safe bet.
  • Product construction — Street signs will be abused, so choose a display with vandal-resistant features such as impact absorption/deflection and graffiti-resistant coatings. Look for a display that can be repaired or upgraded in the field by untrained personnel.

— Odell is president of Information Display Co.

Slowing down around town

Residents become part of a safety solution.

The Oregon city of Tigard had a problem with speeders, particularly around its high school.

Located about 10 miles south of Portland, the city and the school are on a route that's popular with commuters as well as residents. Drivers slowed down whenever police officers visibly patrolled the school zone, but deploying a full-time patrol unit wasn't financially feasible.

Traditional traffic-calming devices, such as speed bumps and rumble strips, weren't feasible, either, because they'd disrupt flows on the high-volume thoroughfare. Ultimately, city officials decided to implement a program that combines human intervention with radar technology.

Unlike speed bumps, permanently mounted radar speed signs wouldn't increase noise levels or impede emergency vehicles. To slow drivers in residential areas, the city bought trailer-mounted speed displays that are moved from location to location.

Working with a display manufacturer, the city set up a program that trains volunteers to monitor traffic using radar speed guns. The portable speed displays alert drivers to their current speed, while the speed guns record the speed of violators. The police department follows up with courtesy notices warning violators to obey neighborhood speed limits.

“Since this program was put in place, local residents feel empowered and speeding has decreased in problem areas,” says Jim Wolf, public information officer for the Tigard Police Department.

The program's success prompted the city to buy 12 solar-powered radar signs to be permanently mounted within all school zones.