Headlines: August 25th, 2004

The latest technology is playing an important part in helping to keep drivers safe and well informed during the busy holiday travel period, according to the Highways Agency. It is using around 2,000 variable message signs and says they are a vital tool in its effort to protect drivers and give them the best possible information.The VMS signs give drivers up-to-the-minute information on driving conditions and the road ahead so that if, for example, there is an accident the Agency can use the system to alert drivers and divert traffic away onto alternative routes. The Highways Agency is also using VMS to remind drivers of key safety issues, using messages that are targeted to be relevant at certain times of the year or on certain routes.

The Agency’s Director of Safety, Standards and Research, Ginny Clarke, said that during the current peak holiday period selected signs were being used to display ‘Don’t Drive Tired’ to encourage drivers to take regular breaks. They are also being used to show ‘Keep Your Distance’ messages to combat tailgating over the holiday period. In another example they were used during the Euro 2004 football tournament to display “Don’t Drink and Drive”, reminding drivers of an important safety message at a time when risks might have been higher.

“Through targeted use of VMS signs we ensure that drivers are only given relevant information and are not bombarded with inappropriate messages. We don’t want drivers to stop looking at our signs because they have seen too many messages that mean little to them,” Ginny Clarke said.

Britain’s roads are already among the safest in Europe, but the Agency says the VMS signs are an example of how it is grasping the opportunities created by new technology to meet its commitment to deliver even safer journeys.