Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Radar-triggered signs cut Ketchum speeding

Express Staff Writer

Slow down or it will flash at you: Ketchum Police say new digital signs like this one on Warm Springs Road are a deterrent to speeders.

Ketchum police are reporting a "dramatic reduction in speeds" since three radar-activated speed check signs were installed on the three-way approaches to the intersection of Warm Springs and Saddle roads.

Ketchum Police Sgt. Dave Kassner said the signs have triggered inquiries from as far away as the state of Washington.

The three signs, which flash an oncoming vehicle's speed in bright orange numbers, have been installed about 500 feet in three directions from the Warm Springs-Saddle intersection in a 20-mph zone.

Kassner said Tuesday that the sites are no accident. Concentrated in that general area is the YMCA, Rotary Park, Guy Coles Skate Park, Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood school, several pedestrian crosswalks and the nearby Hemingway Elementary School—in other words, an area generating a lot of foot traffic that competes with vehicular activity.

Money for the three signs—about $7,200 apiece, including solar power and a device that records vehicle counts and speeds—came from a police trust fund compiled from drug forfeiture cases. Now, caution lights financed by the Safe Routes to School program are being installed atop light standards at the Warm Springs crosswalk leading to Hemingway Elementary. The project also includes paying for some new sidewalks in Ketchum that are used by school students, Keener said.

Kassner suggested that drivers who are inattentive cause most speeding. The flashing signs, he said, alert them to slow down, thus accounting for a sharp drop in speeding citations in that area.

He also suggested that drivers inbound toward downtown Ketchum on Warm Springs Road can shift into second gear at the top of the hill just before Exhibition Boulevard and establish a steady 20 mph to comply with the speed limit, a habit that even he follows in his police cruiser.

When drivers exceed 20 mph, the numbers flash. At 20 mph or below, the lighted number remains steady.

However, the signs will not record excessive speeds, such as 40 mph, to avoid foolhardy drivers from attempting to trigger outlandish speeds on the signs, Sgt. Kassner said.

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