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Do In-town Flashing Speed Indicators Work?

By: Simon McBride - Updated: 18 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Speed Speed Limit Flashing Speed

In recent years the number of speed cameras have multiplied but there has been a slight variance in some towns with the introduction of the vehicle activated signs, or flashing speed indicators, which tell motorists to slow down.

The Department for Transport (DfT) claims that Vehicle Activated Signs (VAS) are part of the solution to reduce motorists speed where conventional signage has not worked. Normally these signs flash when triggered by a vehicle to tell the driver the appropriate information.

A spokesman from the DfT said: Vehicle activated signs should be considered only when there is an accident black spot that has not been solved with traditional signage or where the cost of speed cameras is prohibitive."

These signs usually warn motorists of one thing or the other:

  • Warning of a hazard
  • Speed enforcing

Normally when in town the signs flash the maximum speed limit that you can drive at and some are even as sophisticated to also show the speed that you are actually driving at. This can trigger a feeling of guilt with the driver, which makes them slow down.

In town the VAS sign will be set as close to the speed limit as possible and will only be activated if a motorist is exceeding the set speed limit – if a motorist is under the legal limit then the sign remains as blank.

The latest generation of these VAS signs can show multiple messages such as text saying “SLOW DOWN” and a 30mph sign with two amber lights below the speed limit.

Warning of a Hazard

On rural roads these VAS signs are usually positioned near to a hazard. Examples of this can include:

  • Crossroads ahead
  • T-junction ahead
  • Side Road Ahead
  • Staggered junction ahead
  • Roundabout ahead
  • Bend ahead
  • Junction on bend ahead
  • Double bend ahead

Do the VAS Signs Work?

In conjunction with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) the DfT took a study of installations on rural roads. The research concluded that the VAS signing was very effective in reducing speed and proved to the Safety Camera Partnerships that speed cameras were not needed in these areas.

The DfT spokesman added: “The VAS signs are an effective weapon in road safety, particularly when targeted against those who break the legal limit. In this study, a substantial accident reduction has been demonstrated.”

Driver Friendly

The VAS signs are regarded by many as “Driver Friendly” as they encourage motorists to slow rather than enforce the law. Speed cameras cost in the region of £40,000 per unit while these VAS signs cost between £1,600 and £6,000 and seem to slow drivers down just as well according to the research above.

A spokesman for the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said: " Vehicle-Activated Signs can be set to come on at the speed limit, rather than the higher figure which is set for the cameras by the Association of Chief Police Officers. They can also be put up in a variety of places and are particularly effective on dangerous bends and on the approaches to villages."

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