Watertown police department finds impact of traffic calming radar speed signs to be both immediate and long-lasting
Watertown, MA – April 13, 2009 – SpeedCheck radar signs have proven to be key to slowing drivers around school zones in Watertown, Massachusetts. The city, located six miles northwest of Boston, recently installed permanently mounted radar SpeedCheck signs along the busy streets of each of its five school zones. According to the Watertown police department, the speed displays have had an immediate traffic-calming effect in the posted areas.
“The first radar speed sign we installed was on a busy four-lane highway alongside one of our elementary schools,” said Sgt. Joseph Deignan of the Watertown Police Department’s traffic division. “Before the radar SpeedCheck sign was installed, morning traffic speeds averaged 37 miles per hour. Two months after the speed display was in operation, we found speeds dropped by an average of about 10 miles per hour – an amount that can have a significant impact on the safety of our children.”
According to a 1999 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number and severity of pedestrian-related accidents are strongly associated with automotive traffic speeds. While only five percent of pedestrian accidents resulted in fatalities when the car was traveling 20 mph or less, this number jumped to 40 percent when cars were driving 30 mph and 80 percent at forty mph.
As with many cities across the country, concern over traffic safety around school zones was an annual issue for the city of Watertown. Other methods used to slow traffic in these areas proved ineffective.
“The flashing lights that were previously used in and around our school zones might as well have been invisible,” said Deignan. “They were all but ignored by passing drivers. At the same time, I had driven by several radar SpeedCheck signs during my off hours and noticed how effective they were at getting me to reduce my own driving speed. I figured if they were effective in reminding me to slow down, chances were good, they would be effective for others as well.”
“Studies show that radar speed signs are particularly effective because they remind drivers to immediately check their own driving speed in relation to the posted limit,” said Gary ODell, president of Information Display Company, a leading manufacturer of radar SpeedCheck signs and makers of the displays deployed by the city of Watertown. “Unlike speed bumps or rumble strips, the radar speed displays do not increase traffic noise or impede emergency vehicles. They are also gaining in popularity as communities across the country voice opposition to more intrusive devices such as radar speed cameras.”
The five signs currently used by the city of Watertown include data tracking and scheduling capabilities. During school hours, the signs’ displays flash the vehicle speed when drivers exceed the 20 mph limit and display a “SLOW DOWN” message when speeds exceed 25 mph. During non-school hours, when the posted limit is 30 mph, the displays automatically switch to flash when driver speeds exceed 32 mph and show a “SLOW DOWN” message when they exceed 37 mph. A “racing cut off” feature ensures drivers do not use the signs to measure excessive speeds.