Variable Speed Signs Keep Roads Safer

During storms or icy weather, engineers can adjust the new $750,000 electronic sign system to a lower speed limit.

by / January 13, 2014

Weather changes, but speed signs usually don't. 

Oregon has something called "the basic rule" that says you can be fined for going 50 mph in a 50 mph zone if conditions are bad and the "prudent" speed is only 35.

But Utah is taking a road less traveled. It's joining with a few other states, like Wyoming, to install electronic variable-speed traffic signs on certain troublesome stretches of highway, and switched on a new $750,000 electronic sign system last week.

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The system includes 15 speed limit variable signs, according to News 4 in Utah, cameras, sensors to monitor road conditions -- temperature, road icing, traffic speed and visibility -- and electronics that allow Department of Transportation staff to adjust speed limit signs to match conditions. The highway patrol is notified and the new lower posted speed becomes enforceable.

According to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune, the system is located in Parleys Canyon, about 10 minutes east of Salt Lake City, because it has bad weather, lots of traffic and is in close proximity to electricity, computer networks and road sensors.