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What can Lidar do that my radar speed sign can’t?

In several past blog entries, we talked about placing a radar speed sign in an area where people may be speeding to collect the data first. By using a sign, there’s no need to take up an officer’s time just to collect data—the sign does it all.

However, once the data is collected and the data shows that there is a problem, placing an officer on the road and equipping him or her with a web-enabled Lidar gun is step two.

Lidar guns are helpful to law enforcement but most officers still record the data by hand. However, with web-enabled Lidar guns, officers can do much more. This type of data collection and management will become a standard requirement for police departments in the near future. Here are three ways a web-enabled Lidar gun can improve your police department.cop-aiming-through-dragoneye2

Easily write reports

Officers using web-enabled Lidar have vehicle speed, distance, direction and the time of each capture recorded instantly and uploaded to the cloud where it’s saved and recorded—that means reports are a lot easier to write. Officers can also add notes and images to each capture. Cloud systems also track the effectiveness of enforcement efforts with data such as how many captures were taken, the number of citations written and statistics on the enforcement session.

Add credibility in court

Additionally, officers can access the data needed for court with a click of a mouse. No more scrambling for daily test logs. Cloud systems gives the officer the ability to log daily accuracy tests and save certification documents. This is vital in supporting the accuracy of the instrument and ensuring that fewer citations will be disputed.

Integrate it with other web products

Another benefit to departments is utilizing other cloud-system equipment, such as speed displays, to collect traffic data at an enforcement site.

Lidar is a powerful tool for police departments and combining it with cloud technology turns that tool into something that improves accuracy, credibility in court and effectiveness.

By Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

The other traffic metric you need to understand to make roads safe

In the past, we talked about how important it is to understand the 85th Percentile. It’s a tough concept, but once you get it under your belt your knowledge of how to make roads safe increases significantly.

The other concept that tends to confuse people at first is the 10 mph Pace.10-mph-pace-image

The 10 mph Pace is the speed at which the majority of cars are going on a stretch of road. While the 85th Percentile is the maximum speed that 85% of drivers will not exceed, the 10 mph Pace is the range of how fast those cars are actually going.

For example, if the 85th Percentile is 37 mph, the 10 mph Pace is typically around 25-35 mph.

However, the pace can change throughout the day depending on how busy the road gets. The 85th Percentile, on the other hand, remains the same regardless of congestion.

For example, if there is congestion in the morning at 7 a.m., the 85th percentile stays the same because it’s the maximum speed drivers are willing to travel. However, the average speed of the driver on the road at that time will drop. This can be seen by placing a sensor on the road and collecting the data. If the 10 mph Pace decreases at a specific time of day, there is likely congestion.

What this means for law enforcement is that looking at the 10 mph Pace helps understand whether specific cars are speeding or are safely going the average speed. If the speed limit is at the higher end of the 10 mph Pace, that means the majority of the cars will go slower than the speed limit. If the pace is toward the lower end of the range, then cars will be traveling above the limit.

An ideal situation would look like this:

  • The 85th Percentile is 37 mph
  • The 10mph Pace is 23-33 mph
  • The speed limit is 25 mph

The example above shows that vehicles are trending around the speed limit and the speed limit is set correctly. Using these data points could also justify raising the speed limit. If the 85th Percentile was 45 mph, the 10 mph was 33-43 mph and the speed limit was 25 mph, many cars would be traveling above the speed limit and those at the speed limit could be unsafe.

What do you think about the 10 mph Pace concept? Could knowing it be helpful on some of your patrol routes? Let us know!

by Marshall Barto at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

What can Lidar do that my radar speed sign can’t?

In several past blog entries, we talked about placing a radar speed sign in an area where people may be speeding to collect the data first. By using a sign, there’s no need to take up an officer’s time just to collect data—the sign does it all.

cop-aiming-through-dragoneye2

However, once the data is collected and the data shows that there is a problem, placing an officer on the road and equipping him or her with a web-enabled Lidar gun is step two.

Lidar guns are helpful to law enforcement but most officers still record the data by hand. However, with web-enabled Lidar guns, officers can do much more. This type of data collection and management will become a standard requirement for police departments in the near future. Here are three ways a web-enabled Lidar gun can improve your police department.

Easily write reports

Officers using web-enabled Lidar have vehicle speed, distance, direction and the time of each capture recorded instantly and uploaded to the cloud where it’s saved and recorded—that means reports are a lot easier to write. Officers can also add notes and images to each capture. Cloud systems also track the effectiveness of enforcement efforts with data such as how many captures were taken, the number of citations written and statistics on the enforcement session.

Add credibility in court

Additionally, officers can access the data needed for court with a click of a mouse. No more scrambling for daily test logs. Cloud systems gives the officer the ability to log daily accuracy tests and save certification documents. This is vital in supporting the accuracy of the instrument and ensuring that fewer citations will be disputed.

Integrate it with other web products

Another benefit to departments is utilizing other cloud-system equipment, such as speed displays, to collect traffic data at an enforcement site.

Lidar is a powerful tool for police departments and combining it with cloud technology turns that tool into something that improves accuracy, credibility in court and effectiveness.

by Marshall Barto at All Traffic Solutions

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Why one town loves its blinking radar speed display

Last time we discussed when to include a message on a speed radar sign and why incorporating one makes them more effective and versatile. But that’s not the only way to increase the effectiveness of your speed displays. One town in Central Pennsylvania swears by its blinking speed display.20160526_ats_trailer_speedlimit25

While speed displays with messaging capability can communicate to drivers how fast they’re going and that they need to slow down, incorporating red and blue strobe lights can implicitly do the same thing without words.

In 2010, All Traffic Solutions placed a trailer with a blinking speed display on a busy road headed into the town of Lemont in Pennsylvania. The intention was doing a two-week study, but when the sign was removed, residents immediately started calling for it to become a permanent fixture in the community. And it’s been there ever since.

“It’s one of the best locations you could ever have for a blinking display because it’s a long straight road headed into a windy road with a lower speed limit in a heavily populated area,” Eric Kline, VP of Engineering at All Traffic Solutions, said.

The sign is also set to display speeds differently depending on how fast a driver is approaching it. The new TraffiCloud firmware allows users to choose between just showing a driver their speed, flashing their speed or flashing their speed with strobing red and blue lights. So if a driver is under the speed limit, the number is solid, if the driver over the speed limit but within a reasonable buffer, it flashes their speed and if the driver is over the speed limit by 10-15mph, the red and blue strobe lights flash.

Having these conditions in place are beneficial for a soccer mom, for example, driving by the sign every day. If the strobe was set to go off right at the speed limit, she would likely see it 10 times before and learn to ignore it. But if the strobe lights are set to go off when she’s driving 15mph over the speed limit, that one day when she’s in a rush she’ll see the strobe lights, know she’s doing something wrong and slow down.

“I make the signs and they still get me to slow down if I see those strobe lights,” Kline said.

A conditional speed display also has the additional benefit of improving community relations.

“The residents in Lemont feel like their police department is taking care of them because they have that sign there,” Kline said.

Have you tried strobing speed displays before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

When do you include a message on a speed radar sign?

Message displays are typically used less by law enforcement than other city departments but that should not be the case. Incorporating messages into speed displays make them more effective and versatile.ATS5 Trailer Image

Many small police departments share equipment with the town or public works department and this can be an advantage because it often provides law enforcement with access to equipment they might not buy for themselves—equipment like message signs.

More commonly, an employee from public works inquires about a message board because they have a specific need—for example, crowd control during a 5k race. It’s only later that they find out the message board is effective for speed enforcement too.

The real effectiveness comes with combining speed radar displays and message boards. All Traffic Solutions has two speed message displays—an 18” sign that is pole mounted and a 24” sign that is on a trailer. The 18” can do 6 characters on two lines, which gives law enforcement the opportunity to display messages like “slow down,” “too fast,” “road closed,” “ACCT Ahead,” or even an amber alert.

The most recent trend in speed messaging is incorporating it into the statewide campaign is for the month. For example, Massachusetts recently had an anti-texting campaign where it had signs monitor the speeds of cars—if the cars were driving above the speed limit, the message would be to slow down. However, if the driver was below the speed limit, the message said “You text, you drive, you pay” assuming they were driving slow because they were playing with their phone.

Incorporating strobe lights into the signs also adds to the effectiveness. We’ve seen the impact of these lights again and again, but only if utilized properly. For instance, the strobe lights should be set to flash only when a driver is exceeding the speed limit by about 10 mph because if drivers speed by it and sees it flash every time, they will quickly become accustomed to it.

Inevitably, however, the sign will need to be moved to a new area and the old area will be at risk of becoming dangerous again. To prevent that, police departments can use the data the sign collected to persuade city and state engineers to install more permanent solutions on the road, such as lowering the speed limit. That way, the community continues to be safe beyond the time the sign is out there slowing traffic.

What kind of impact have you had with messaging? We’d love to hear from you!

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

3 things a radar speed display can do besides tell drivers how fast they’re going

The public demands a lot from our law enforcement and municipal government and, more often than not, we ask them to do more with less. That’s why we coach our customers on how to make the most of our products.shield1

For example, there is a lot you can do with a radar speed display besides notify drivers how fast they’re going. Here’s three!

They do what a handheld radar can do

It takes a lot of manpower to monitor drivers across any town or city but a speed radar display can make it easier by helping determine where the problem areas are before a police office is placed on a road.

By placing a display on a road with a possible speeding issue, the department can collect the data and clearly see if there is a speeding issue or if it just appears that way. This frees up police officers to attend to other duties in the town.

They clear complaints

Police departments understand the value in responding to and clearing complaints about speed demons in neighborhoods. It improves community relations and clears paperwork from desks.

Speed radar displays are ideal for clearing this type of complaint. Simply place a display on the road in stealth mode and collect the speeds without showing drivers how fast their going. If the data comes back and shows everyone is obeying the speed limit, you just responded to and cleared a complaint without much manpower. If there is a problem, you know that it’s worth a cop’s time to monitor the road.

They conduct mini traffic studies

For municipalities that want a traffic study but cannot convince the DOT there is a need, a radar speed display can help.

Engineers don’t like to go off hearsay so if a town would like to add a second lane to a road, for example, it needs to convince the DOT that there is a significant amount of traffic on the road. One way to do that is to place a display on the road to count the number of vehicles then taking that data to DOT as evidence.

This tactic is also helpful in changing a speed limit and appealing for a traffic signal.

They can do even more

Speed radar displays can do even more when connected with the TraffiCloud and you begin to collect all your traffic data in once place but that’s a blog topic for another time.

As always, we here to help! Please give us a ring if you have any questions with using a speed radar display, even if it’s not our product!

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Where to put a radar speed display so you get the best data

When first looking at improving the safety of a road, many people start by counting the number of cars that travel on the road and determining how many are speeding.ComplianceByHour

The simplest way to collect this data is with a radar speed display, but the counts will only be accurate if it’s installed properly for data collection. When used to calm traffic as the main priority, the sign may have to be mounted in less-than-perfect locations. But when data collection is the top priority, here are a couple tips to ensure your radar speed display collects the best data possible.

Angle it down the road

For best results, the sign should be aimed toward cars about 500 feet down the road. Sometimes signs are angled too close which creates a problem where the radar is shooting across the road instead of down the road. This can reduce pick up range as well as provide incorrect readings. Also, make sure the radar speed display is as close as safely possible to the side of the road so the angle does not affect the readings. This is known as the cosine angle. If the angle is too large the reading can be incorrect. Try to keep this angle under five degrees so as to not become a problem.

To make sure the viewing angle is correct, direct the sign so it’s pointed at the center of the lane where you want the farthest pick up to be (just eyeball it, it doesn’t have to be exact).

Choose a free-flowing location

The best location for data collection with the radar speed display is where the traffic is free-flowing on a straight stretch of road without turnoffs or driveways. This location will provide the best data. Turnoffs and entrances will generally skew the data lower. These lower speeds can be filtered when generating reports, but it is better if collecting these readings can be avoided through location selection.

Since this may not always be available, try to make the location as optimal as possible.

Adjust the sensitivity

Radar speed displays can pick up approaching vehicles from 100 feet to 1,000 feet away depending on the sensitivity level of the radar detection. However, you also want to give approaching drivers plenty of time to see the sign and react so finding the right level takes some experimentation. The sign will always pick up a box truck at a further distance than a motorcycle but the sensitivity does provide the ability to reduce or increase the relative distance.

We suggest driving past the sign yourself a couple of times to get experience and adjust the sensitivity accordingly.

Use Stealth Mode

When the primary goal is to collect speed data on the road, set the display to stealth mode where the sign appears to be off yet is still collecting data. Also remove the static “Your Speed” sign to make the unit truly disappear and not affect the traffic speeds. Recording data in the Stealth Mode will provide true baseline speed data. Follow this deployment with the sign in Display Mode to calm the traffic. This will also allow you to determine the effectiveness of the speed display in this particular location.

Understand the count

Keep in mind that speed displays with doppler radars will only count accurately when placed on roads with one lane of approaching traffic. If there are multiple lanes, the data will show an accurate speed profile of the road, but the counts will not be accurate. All Traffic Solutions can provide alternate products that can track vehicles and speeds on multiple lanes in both directions when this capability is required.
Current radar speed displays are so portable and lightweight, they can be attached to any street sign and easily adjusted for optimal pickup. As always, we’re here to help. So let us know if you have any questions about your data!

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

Where to put a radar speed display to optimize traffic calming effectiveness

Virginia Lake Shield InstallOne of the first tactics to slow down a busy road is installing a radar speed display to make drivers aware of how fast they are traveling. But that can only happen if the display is installed in the right location. Here are a few tips to ensure your radar speed display is set up for success.

Mount it high

Typically, if you’re using a portable radar speed display, it needs to be at least 5-6 feet off the ground so it’s above any car that’s parked or pulled over in front of it. That ensures the sign is always visible to approaching drivers. Generally the higher the better—within reason of course.

Angle it properly

Most LEDs on radar speed displays have a 20 to 30 degree viewing angle, so as you drive by, they fade out of view. This prevents drivers from confusing their speed with the car in front or behind them, and keeps them from looking at the display rather than looking ahead down the road as they get close to the sign.

Choose the best location

The best location for the radar speed display is where the traffic is free-flowing on a straight stretch of road. This location will provide the highest effectiveness as it has the best visibility to the driver. A location such as this will not always be available, so try to make the location as optimal as possible by following these suggestions.

Test out the location by approaching the sign in your vehicle. Try to make the approach to the sign long enough so that the driver can see and process the displayed speed in order to take the appropriate action. Look for locations where there are not a lot of other distractions. In a neighborhood this is not generally a problem, but on an arterial, look for locations without a lot of other traffic and commercial signage so that the speed display stands out. If possible, mount the sign near or on the same pole as a speed limit sign so drivers know the posted speed limit. Mount the sign in advance of a problem area. For example mount it to slow drivers down before a curve, don’t mount it on the curve itself. It’s too late to slow someone down at that point.

Avoid cross streets, curves and hills

If there is a busy intersection or cross street in the view of the radar speed display, the display might pick up cars from the cross street in addition to the vehicles you are trying to calm. Move the sign as far away as practical from cross streets and reduce the display’s radar sensitivity so cross traffic is not detected. If the sign were to display the speed of a vehicle rather than the approaching vehicle, the driver will become confused and not trust the sign.

Current radar speed displays are so portable and lightweight, they can be attached to any street sign and easily adjusted for oncoming traffic. While there are more things to learn about installing a radar speed display, following these tips will set you up for success. Just don’t forget to turn it on!

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

The one concept you need to know to improve traffic safety


85th Percentile for Blog
There are a few concepts that are important to understand before diving into traffic data — and perhaps no other concept is more important than the 85th Percentile.

15% of drivers cause most of the accidents on the road

The 85th Percentile is the maximum speed that 85% of drivers will not exceed on a given road if there were no stop signs, speed limits or traffic signals. It’s seen as the safest speed on the roadway because 85% of the vehicles are naturally at that speed or below it. The majority of drivers drive safely because they it is in their own self-interest to remain safe.

The concept  is important in traffic management as it is critical data in setting speed limits. Most drivers behave in a safe and reasonable manner, do not drive at excessive speeds and do not want to get into crashes. Research shows that vehicles traveling between the 50th and 85th percentile of speed have the lowest risk of crashing due to speed and drivers who exceed the 90th percentile have a significantly higher risk of crashing. Therefore many of vehicles exceeding the 85th Percentile are the ones causing the majority of the accidents.

Knowing this, the 85th Percentile is a good starting point for traffic engineers to determine where the speed limit should be set. Generally, other safety factors of the roadway must also be considered before the actual speed limit is determined. The end result is typically a speed limit that is between 10 mph lower than and the 85th percentile.

The MUTCD states that…….The most common factor considered in setting speed zone limits is the 85th percentile traffic speed.

Drivers don’t slow themselves down

Once this concept is learned and understood, it can be helpful in analyzing traffic data. For example, let’s say a new day care is built and despite a posted speed limit of 25 mph, drivers are going much faster than that past the school.

One way to understand this is by analyzing the 85th Percentile. Perhaps, the numbers come back and show the 85th Percentile is 42 mph. In that case, it’s understandable that cars are exceeding the speed limit because the road is designed for a higher speed, and this is also accommodated by the road’s environment.

To solve this issue, something is needed to slow down the vehicles such as a road diet (narrowing the lanes) or radar speed feedback sign. Drivers often need a reminder to slow them down.

How to quickly collect data on the 85th Percentile

Radar signs that collect data are a good tool for helping determine the 85th Percentile on a problematic road. Users just need to set up the sign and allow it to start collecting data. Today’s signs even automatically upload data to the cloud and run reports on the 85th Percentile without driving out to the sign. Analysis is just a couple clicks away instead of hours collecting the data and poring over an excel sheet.

There is much more to learn about analyzing traffic data but the 85th Percentile is one of the first and most important concepts needed to make our roads safe.

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

 

Blog, Traffic Stop Blog

5 ways to calm traffic on a busy road

Shield_Field_FrontThe question we hear most often from law enforcement officers is “how can I make my roads safer?” It’s a great question and one that’s not easily answered because, well, it depends.

It depends on the road location, whether rural or municipal, the type of road, whether arterial or local street, the speed limit, the environment and a host of other features. But that being said, we get where you’re coming from. When you call us up, you’re not really looking for an answer for your specific road, you’re asking how to assess and determine what traffic mitigation tools will work on roads similar to the one you have in mind.

For this reason, here are five ways to calm a busy road.

Put an officer on the road

Putting an officer on the road is a sure fire way to get people to slow down. Nothing puts drivers on notice more than driving past an officer holding a Lidar gun out the window of the cruiser. And while many drivers do not slow down until they see the officer, they continue to drive safely for some time going forward.

However, officers cannot be on every busy road all the time, as no police department’s budget can sustain this level of enforcement. That’s why this tool is best used selectively, where the enforcement activity will be most effective in slowing down the most egregious violators and protecting the most constituents whether they be other drivers, pedestrians or school children.

Make the road narrower

Another way to calm a busy road is by narrowing the road. Called a “road diet” narrowing a road makes drivers instinctively slow down. By making a road narrower, drivers instinctively slow down. Conversely, wide, open roads persuade drivers to increase their speed. This psychological tool is good, for example, in congested urban areas with many pedestrians and other complex driving situations. In areas where road diets are incorporated, pedestrian traffic generally increases bringing economic vitality along with it.

The challenge with a road diet is it requires support from the local or state Department of Transportation and can take a long time to accomplish. DOTs need proof beyond anecdotal evidence from law enforcement that changing the road is the best solution. Therefore, it’s best to take a collaborative approach to this solution and join with the DOT to implement this solution where it’s appropriate.

Road diets can be accomplished through extensive construction, but can also be as simple as reconfiguring the traffic movement through changes to the striping on the road.

Build speed humps or roundabouts

Speed humps and roundabouts are also tools that can be used to calm a busy road. Everyone knows the sight of an upcoming speed hump (or the uncomfortable feeling when you miss the warnings). Humps immediately slow down drivers but cannot be used on every busy road.

Many times speed bumps are requested by residents in an effort to slow down vehicles, but they quickly realize that they just move the problem to another street. Plus, the residents realize that they don’t like them either and ask for them to be removed. Some localities make the residents fund an escrow fund for speed bump removal before they will install them. Emergency vehicles and snow plows do not appreciate speed bumps/humps as they slow their response time.

Roundabouts are a great solution and save lives at intersections where they are utilized. But they can only be applied to certain situations and do nothing to calm the traffic between the intersections. They also require years of planning and budgeting by the DOT. As time goes on we will see more roundabouts due to their safety and environmental advantages.

Install automated speed enforcement cameras

Automated speed enforcement cameras are a tool law enforcement has begun to use in the last decade or so. They are effective in preventing drivers from speeding and provide very consistent enforcement based only upon speed. This lack of discretion has positive and negative consequences.

The biggest problem with cameras is that citizens do not like getting tickets from a machine and they often lead to more complaints as they are considered revenue generators rather than safety improvements. And it only takes a few cases where they are used to generate revenue or at least promote this misconception to make citizens dislike this solution. While they are great tools, budget and civil protest prevent departments from utilizing this solution. And due to the installation cost, they can only be used selectively and cannot generally be moved around so they only provide “spot” solutions where drivers know to drive the speed limit where they are installed, and do what they like in other locations.

Install a radar speed display

The final tool you can use to calm a road with many speed violators is using a radar speed display. Radar speed displays are proven to slow down drivers and make them more attentive.

They generally do not require a DOT study or infrastructure to be placed on a road. Many are portable and can be placed temporarily on just about any road so that they can be used to both calm traffic and collect data at many locations around a town.

They are also budget friendly for departments that are short staffed. While radar speed signs calm traffic they also collect data that identifies problem areas and helps a department prioritize enforcement and utilize their resources more effectively.

Additionally, radar speed displays have become web-enabled so you can track the traffic volumes and speeds in real time. There is no need to drive out to the sign to download the data as it is available on any internet-connected computer. The signs alert you to low battery and tampering, saving unnecessary trips to the sign. They can even alert you to high speed violators and congestion.

Radar speed displays are a cost effective and quickly implemented solution to traffic calming and can be a great complement to longer term engineering solutions. They can help extend limited resources at a very cost effective price.

by Lori Miles at All Traffic Solutions

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