The police department here is using a new tool to reduce speeding and increase safety on town streets with a pole-mounted radar sign.
The town purchased the $3,265 battery-powered device, manufactured by Radarsign, with a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission, and began working with it last month.
Generally, the first step in deploying it is to put it in “stealth mode,” police Chief Bill Carter said, in which it records speeds of passing motorists and other data but doesn’t flash the speeds in its display. That allows the department to determine if speeding is occurring at a certain site, how frequently and how much above the speed limit.
The next stage is to turn on the display, which flashes the vehicle’s speed as it passes and accomplishes part of the sign’s goal immediately.
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“People are going to slow down when they see that number,” Carter said. “It’s like when you see a patrol car. You tend to let up on the gas, even if you’re not speeding.”
The difference, Carter noted, is that the radar can operate 24 hours a day and it doesn’t have to be paid, unlike an officer sitting in car for eight hours.
If data from the new radar show that the speeding problem persists even with the radar in active mode, then the third stage is enforcement by officers, armed with what they’ve learned from the sign.
“We’re able to utilize our personnel more effectively based on the data we collect,” Carter said.
The device can be set so that it won’t flash the speed when it gets to a certain level over the limit in case there are a few motorists who want to use the display to see how fast they can go, Carter said.
The manufacturer claims that speeders will slow down 80 percent of the time when alerted by a sign-mounted radar, with typical average speed reductions of 10-20 percent.
“The goal is to make sure people comply with the speed limit voluntarily,” Carter said.
Speeding is another potential issue that comes with rapid growth, he said. As the town grows, the number of streets in town grows too, which could tend to stretch officers thin. The sign will help show if there is an issue and how pressing the problem may be.
The department still has an old trailer-supported radar, but it just displays speeds and can’t collect data like the new tool, Carter said. The trailer radar is also more difficult to move around and can’t fit in some of the spaces the new equipment can.
The manufacturer says the particular model Wendell got is best for speeds up to 35 miles per hour. Carter said the department plans to use it on residential streets as well as main thoroughfares.
The grant process started last year, Carter said, and this effort is not officially tied to the town’s recent effort to make pedestrian improvements over the next several years, but they do have similar goals.
“That kind of tells you the priority the town puts on safety,” Carter said.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826