Smart signs spot speeding drivers

England's Highways Agency has begun on-road trials of a new kind of road sign designed to deter drivers from speeding.

A seven-week trial of the Vehicle Activated Speed Indicator Devices (VASID) is running on the A12 London-bound carriageway, near Kelvedon, Essex. When fully operational, the system will flash up the number plate of any vehicles exceeding the speed limit as a visual reminder to drivers to slow down.

The trials are part of a research and development project that is being carried out by Atkins on behalf of the Highways Agency. Similar but much smaller VASID technology was trialled at the start of motorway roadworks on the M42 with good results.

The system includes a large trailer-mounted variable message sign (VMS) and remote speed and ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) detection units. These detection units are positioned over adjacent lanes of the A12 on a cantilever arm, mounted on top of a tall mast in the verge. Detection units will be positioned about 250 metres before the VMS, at the VMS and about 250 metres after the VMS.

Mark Pooley, Highways Agency project sponsor, said: "We are investigating whether the system has an effect on the behaviour of drivers. We will assess the vehicle speed data and look at what impact the messages had on drivers and how well the technology worked with live traffic.

"This is the first time that we have been able to bring these components together on a live road to measure the speed of vehicles in several adjacent lanes and advise those driving at the highest speeds that they need to slow down.

"Existing vehicle activated systems used on the Highways Agency network only show the speed limit sign, but do not show the vehicle number plate."

Initially, no messages will be displayed on the sign but the system will be monitoring vehicle speeds. During week two if it picks up a vehicle exceeding the limit, the sign will display the National Speed Limit sign with the message "SLOW DOWN".

From weeks three to six the speed and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) detection units will detect the number plate of a vehicle exceeding the limit and will display the National Speed Limit sign with the message "SLOW DOWN" and the vehicle registration number. The equipment will be removed during week seven.

None of the data gathered by the Agency during the on road trial will be used for enforcement purposes. The VASID equipment system does not record any personal data, and therefore complies with the Data Protection Act.

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