Solar Powered Smiley Face Speed Signs Improve Driver Behaviour

Solar road safety sign trial

A trial in the ACT of smiley face road signs powered by the sun appears to have been a success, and will be continued.

The signs detect approaching motorists’ speeds and respond with a smiley if they are driving under the speed limit, and a ’slow down’ message if they are detected speeding. Not shown in the above image is a solar panel atop the signs that powers the display.

Here in South Australia I’ve seen these sorts of signs used on Port Wakefield Road during roadworks. I thought it was an interesting idea, although quite distracting. But it seems they work.

In the ACT trial, five signs were rotated around different residential locations between February 2018 until October 2019. Locations included school and non-school zones, and on streets with varying speed limits and road classifications.

I’m pretty sure the sign I saw on Port Wakefield Road displayed the speed of the approaching vehicle as part of its messaging sequence – in the ACT trial, the signs were programmed to not display the speeds of motorists driving above the speed limit, “so they are not encouraged to try to achieve a high speed reading”. Given the nature of some of the idiots on our roads, that was good thinking.

The signs certainly got a workout – during the period they assessed close to 4 million vehicles.

The results of the evaluation indicated:

  • Travelling speeds were reduced by between 0.4 –12.2 km/h. Even shaving off a small amount of speed could make the difference between life and death of pedestrians.
  • The presence of the signs resulted in a marked increase in the proportion of drivers travelling at or below the legal speed limit of the road
  • The majority of motorists continued to observe the signs’ messaging over the entire period of their installation, even though they were only reminders and not connected to any sort of recording and reporting system (I wonder how many drivers realised that).

“Given the success of the signs, I am pleased to commit further funding to expand this project by providing an additional sign, and footings at two further sites,” said ACT Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety Shane Rattenbury on Friday.

The full evaluation report of the trial can be viewed here.

Solar Power Helping Save Lives

Road safety signs that deliver their messages using lights used to be accompanied by an emissions-spewing generator to provide power. I can’t remember the last time I saw this sort of setup – these days they all seem to be powered by solar panels and batteries.

It’s just another way solar power is helping to improve the world, whether it’s as something as simple as a road safety sign or the much bigger picture of helping slash fossil fuel emissions that not only drive climate change but also impact human health (and the health of just about everything else) in other ways.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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