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VMS Board on the hitch of a truck warning of crash

What is a VMS Board?

Variable Message Signs or VMS boards are electronic message signs that are used by public and private agencies to inform and remind the general public about any updates or changes regarding road traffic, public safety, community events and much more. 

This article is going to break down the top benefits of variable message signs:

Whether you’re reading this as someone who is in the market for a variable message sign, or you just want to learn more about them, this blog will show you videos, photos, and examples from people who regularly use them.

The Top Four Benefits of a VMS Board:

1. They’re versatile

The versatility of a VMS board allows police departments, emergency management agencies, public works, colleges and universities, health departments, stadiums and more to inform the public and direct traffic. At All Traffic Solutions, we often see both our InstAlert 18 and InstAlert 24 used in a variety of ways. We’ve seen our customers use them for:

VMS board cautioning drivers

For even more versatility, message signs with radar feedback are available as well.

Electronic highway message boards communicate multiple screens of text, chevrons, and custom images to meet your needs.

2. They’re proven to be effective

One of the more effective impacts of a VMS board is when it comes to slowing down drivers who are unfamiliar with the road they’re driving on. Even drivers who were only somewhat paying attention to messages on the road tended to slow down, according to this study in Advances in Mechanical Engineering

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation and The Cognitive Research Team at Virginia Tech inputting a witty message also improves their effectiveness. Wordplay and humor, closely followed by seasonal, holiday, and pop-culture references elicit the most brain activity. On the other hand, try to avoid making sports references: the findings discovered that sports references “were less understood by 10% of the group.” One of the most important takeaways of the study is this: if you’re looking to make an impact with your message, evoking an emotional response seems to be the way to go. 

These message signs are also effective for foot traffic. For Deputy Chief Sam Arciola of the Town of Westport, deploying his InstAlert 24 help reduce crowds on athletic fields during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Since we have placed those signs in those specific areas we have seen a decrease in the use of the fields or the attempted use of the fields.”

3. You can operate them remotely

With an InstAlert 18 or InstAlert 24 you can easily change the messaging without having to physically send someone out to the sign’s location. Simply log in to your TraffiCloud® account, pick the desired sign, and make the changes right then and there. As long as you have an Internet connection, you are good to go. Additionally, TraffiCloud allows you to remotely turn displays on and off from anywhere, access your traffic devices on a single dashboard, monitor battery levels and download data remotely. You can also set up alerts (email or SMS) for low battery levels or tampering, and schedule messaging ahead of time for specific dates and times. 

One of the most popular features of the InstAlert signs is the ability to operate the sign remotely.  Seth Muller, who is a manager for the Sandoval County Emergency Health Department in New Mexico, noted how much he liked InstAlert’s remote management capability: “What we really liked about this message board is we can do it from our phone, or from the computer… We can just change it up off of what we’re getting from the nurses and the department of health as they’re testing, we can go in and edit or change the message.” Thomas Stutzman, Director of Indiana County EMA in Pennsylvania, had a similar sentiment: “We got the new signs last week and we had to mount them in our station and one of my maintenance guys was sitting in his office and he’s just running messages through to signs remotely.” “There was a lot of functionality built into that that saves us a ton of time. To be able to pop it into the sign remotely, that was a huge selling point for us that I didn’t have to physically touch the sign when I needed to change data.” – Keenan Cambell, Director, Bureau County EMA, IL

4. Some VMS boards are portable

We know that customers who need to utilize these message signs the most are the ones who are busy and always on the move. With that in mind, portability is a key. A message sign that can be operated remotely and is effective already sounds great. What makes it even better? Portability. The InstAlert 24 is the only option on the market that can fold in half for easy transport in the trunk of a vehicle. Setting up an InstAlert isn’t a multi-person operation: one person can easily deploy it on a portable post, pole, trailer, or vehicle hitch. Being able to easily take it out of your car (whether it’s a police cruiser, a truck, or even a small sedan) and set it up in less than five minutes will make dealing with any situation that comes your way that much easier. 

“The issues that we ran into were that we were constantly having to have somebody drive out to wherever the sign was, and they had to find a place to park, and get out, and go over and get the sign box..” according to Thomas Stutzman, Director of Indiana County EMA in Pennsylvania.

Of course, these are not the only benefits: there are more features that make these message signs valuable for police departments, health departments, event arenas, and many others. If you’re looking for more versatility, you could also attach the InstAlert 24 to the back of a vehicle hitch:

Variable message sign attached to the hitch of a car

If you’re looking for something a bit more permanent, you could always use the ATS 5 trailer. A VMS trailer can easily be towed using a basic vehicle hitch, but just can’t be folded into the trunk of your sedan. 

VMS trailer in action

There’s also the option to attach a VMS board to a pole.

VMS board attached to a pole

A VMS board is useful in so many different kinds of situations, and their versatility, effectiveness, remote operation, and mobility make them the best choice for signs where you have to display messages to inform the public. 

About All Traffic Solutions

All Traffic Solutions has been proudly serving law enforcement and municipalities for over 20 years by providing traffic safety tools such as radar signs, radar speed and message trailers, and portable variable message boards that can be managed remotely by our patented TraffiCloud software

ATS Gives Back

To show our appreciation for law enforcement and our commitment to public safety we started the ATS Gives Back program. With this program, we commit to donating one sign a month to police departments who demonstrate need.  If your police department or a police department you know might be eligible, please apply with this form (and include any supporting attachments) and send it to ATSgivesback@alltrafficsolutions.com. If you want to see previous winners, you can see them here

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