Technologies are now a permanent thread of our society, and this is no different in the world of transportation. Specifically, in recent years, technology has had quite an impact on our roads in a variety of ways, with variable speed limit (VSL) systems being one of those ways. You’ve probably noticed these quite a bit as you drive through your city. A VSL is basically a speed limit that is displayed on a digital variable message sign. The speed limit then changes depending on road and environmental conditions.
This type of signage is considered an effective way of accomplishing traffic and safety goals. There are many reasons why VSLs are deployed and depending on those reasons, the benefits can vary. Often, they are used in places where there are unfavorable road conditions. These can range from unsafe weather conditions, low visibility areas, high number of reported incidents, and construction work zone areas. Active traffic management can initiate potential projects involving a multitude of objectives. In these cases, there can be substantial improvements in mobility and sometimes the environment itself.
Although VSL benefits can differ from site to site depending on a variety of factors, there are typically benefits that seem to frequently follow the deployment of a VSL system. Often, there’s a smoother traffic flow and fewer delays when VSL systems are used to manage traffic speed. You can often see decreased traffic congestion and fewer vehicle accidents as a result.
Safety is another big bonus when it comes to VSL. The VSL pivots the speed limit so that it’s lower as drivers go through construction and work zones. This, in turn, makes it a safer driving experience, especially when night crews are working construction on the roads. The next big advantage that VSL bring is that they can be integrated with the road weather information systems, so that speed limits can be lower during these dangerous weather conditions.
Limitations of Variable Speed Limit Systems
There’s no doubt that implementing VSL on roads can result in a great number of benefits, but they also can come with its set of challenges. Speed enforcement is often cited as one of them. Police officers must be accurate in the change of the speed limits from area to area to accurately do their job. Issuing citations can present challenges especially if there is fear from law enforcement in their proof. Even their own uncertainty can be their worst enemy. Other obstacles may include technical failures of the digitized systems, driver non-compliance, potential for slower systems, and the additional dollars from a budget perspective.
If a VSL is being considered, the best process is to start by asking “Why?” Having a clear goal in what the VSL will achieve is important. VSL should be analyzed carefully to ensure it will solve the problem at hand. VSL is not a one-size fits all solution but can provide many attractive benefits. A detailed engineering process is necessary to have a smooth and successful VSL implementation. Time and planning are key critical. During the design phase, there should be much careful thought and analysis based on the needs. Whether it’s infrastructure requirements or fine-tuning algorithms, it’s all very important to the planning. Reviewing important legal considerations such as state and local statutes should be integrated into the planning stage. Last but not least, the cost of the system doesn’t stop at the items themselves but also operations, staffing, and necessary maintenance. The Return-On-Investment
(ROI) should exceed any costs with the benefits its intended to provide.
Your Sources for Variable Speed Limit Signs
To learn more about VSL, contact us at Worksafe Traffic Control Industries, and we would be happy to share more detailed information to see if this could be a good fit for your project. We are a national supplier of traffic control signs and devices and we’re excited to assist you in this endeavor.