New high tech speed limit signs bring mixed reviews

A new breed of high tech speed limit sign is making its debut in St. Joseph County.

The so-called driver feedback signs dare to compare the posted speed limit in a given area with the actual speed of passing vehicles as measured by radar.

The concept is pretty simple. The posted speed limit is on a conventional sign near the top of the pole. Below is an L.E.D. readout that lists the speed of passing vehicles. The unit is powered by a solar panel.

One of the devices was recently installed on Edison Road near Buckeye. Edison is a major artery or those traveling between South Bend and Elkhart.

“But cars have always just gone really fast down here, it’s always been a problems since we’ve lived here,” said Edison Road resident Tracey Snyder. “It’s only been here for about a week. I came home from work and it was just there. I had no idea they were going to put it there, but I’m glad they did.”

The sign has been in place long enough for Snyder to notice that the speed of passing cars does generally decrease as vehicles approach the device. “It’s funny because cars will come down here and then all the sudden you see it lower and lower and then they’ll start slowing down when they see it.”

Zach Newsom has made similar observations while out mowing the lawn. “I think it’s just driving along like a beautiful day today. Just driving, have the windows down, just enjoying the weather you know. Sometimes you don't really realize how fast you might be going. But then you get one of these and think about it.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood thinks so highly of the high tech contraption. “I think it’s totally ineffective. It’s not doing a thing to slow traffic down, the sign or the electronic sign and quite frankly, what they need is more police patrols out here. It’s a waste of money,” said Edison Road resident Dennis Miller.

Confidence in the device can also be affected by inaccuracy. A unit on Douglas Road near the Notre Dame campus today displayed a 59 or 63 regardless of the actual speed of passing cars.

“It said 63 but my car said 30, so I don't know, what's going on there,” said one confused driver.

Some police departments have used a different version of the same device in the past--a much larger version that was mounted on a trailer, powered by a generator, and typically moved from location to location.

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