The Scotsman Wed 21 Dec 2005
The number of car-activated speed warning signs...

The number of car-activated speed warning signs are expected to rise, funded by revenue from speed cameras.
Picture: Ian Rutherford
Warning signs slow cars better than cameras

FLASHING speed limit signs are more effective at slowing down drivers than speed cameras, according to a survey.

The illuminated reminders have a more lasting impact on motorists than speed cameras, which cause drivers to brake only while they remain in range.

Auto Express magazine said speed signs, which are triggered by vehicles, treated drivers as adults rather than simply penalising them.

Flashing signs operate on the approaches to villages, such as West Linton in the Borders, and on dangerous bends, such as near Houston in Renfrewshire. They have also been used to cut speeds through roadworks, such as during the Auchenkilns flyover project on the A80.

Motoring groups expect their number to increase thanks to a relaxation of regulations that will enable them to be funded using revenue from speed camera fines. Flashing speed signs will also be installed outside several schools on trunk roads in southern Scotland.

Auto Express said checks in England showed 25 per cent of drivers speeding at speed camera sites, but only 16 per cent at flashing speed limit signs. The tests were made at four sites, 300 yards beyond the cameras and signs. The magazine defined "speeding" as exceeding the limit by 10 per cent plus 2mph.

Preliminary results from separate research by the Thames Valley Safety Roads Partnership has shown that vehicle speeds are cut by one-fifth at camera sites, but they return to 95 per cent of their original levels after 300 yards. By contrast, a Transport Research Laboratory study in 2002 found that vehicle-activated signs cut collisions involving fatal or serious injuries by 60 per cent at 19 sites in Norfolk.

David Johns, the editor-in-chief of Auto Express, called for some speed cameras to be replaced with flashing signs following last week's announcement by Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, that speed camera fines south of the Border can now be used to fund other road safety measures. The Scottish Executive is expected to follow suit.

Mr Johns said: "Vehicle-activated signs work on a different psychological basis than speed cameras. They interact with drivers and treat them like adults, rather than merely punishing them. As a result, they are better at getting motorists to think about the effect their actions have on road safety."

Mr Johns said the government was aware of the benefits of vehicle-activated signs, pointing to a report commissioned by the Department for Transport in 2002 that found they were effective at reducing speeds and cutting accidents.

He said: "I am sure drivers welcome the government's recent promise to spend some of the money generated by speed cameras on other road safety schemes. But maybe they should go further and even rip up some cameras and replace them with vehicle-activated signs."

Neil Greig, the head of policy in Scotland for the AA Motoring Trust, called for more signs to be installed. "We are keen that they are more widely used as they have a much more positive image among drivers than speed cameras," he said.

Kevin Delaney, the head of traffic and road safety for the RAC Foundation for Motoring, said: "Interactive speed signs, which combine a reminder of the speed limit, or warn of a particular hazard and a 'slow down' message to speeding drivers, do seem particularly effective.

"They are cheaper than speed cameras, less confrontational and, in the light of proposed changes to the funding of speed cameras recently announced by the Westminster Transport Secretary, are likely to be used increasingly."

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