Police using portable radar sign 04.07.10

Written by David Green.

You’ve driven down a road before only to be shocked to see that you’re going 10 miles an hour over the limit, and it’s posted right in front of you on the electronic sign that shows your speed.

That could happen in Morenci now that the police department has a speed check meter on loan for a month.

The Speed Sentry Shield radar sign will be in use here during April, police chief Larry Weeks said, but he intends to make it a permanent feature in town.

Weeks will designate $2,000 from his 2010-11 budget and collect the remaining $3,000 from fund-raising efforts.

 The beauty of this design, he said, is the portability. Larger, heavier units are mounted on trailers, but the Speed Sentry weighs only 15 pounds and can be easily mounted to a street sign.

“It’s ideal for us,” he said. “I hope to move it around every three or four days.”

In addition to displaying speed, the unit also stores all data collected.

The chief said he wishes he had the use of the unit last year when a resident was complaining about speeding vehicles on Locust Street.

Speed Sentry tracks the number of vehicles passing the sign, computes the average speed and allows officers to determine if speeding occurs at a particular time of day.

“We could assign resources based on that information,” Weeks said.

All data collected can be wirelessly downloaded to a PDA (personal digital assistant) for review.

The unit could also aid the department in considering traffic flow changes. A state law requires a survey before making a change such as adding a stop sign, changing a speed limit, creating a turning lane, etc.

When the Main Street rebuild was undertaken a few years ago, police officers were posted downtown to make visual traffic counts. The Speed Sentry could have handled the work, Weeks said.

And if any local speeders look forward to challenging the Speed Sentry—to see just how fast they can drive past the sign—think again. The unit can be programmed for a maximum speed. When that is exceeded, the sign merely flashes without posting a speed.

Weeks isn’t sure if the sign will actually serve as a speed deterrent, but he expects that it will at least raise awareness and make drivers think about their driving habits.

“I’m interested to hear what people think about the sign,” he said. “I’d love to get feedback about it.”

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