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Versatile signs key as safety project sets blueprint


Variable message signs are being deployed to help fight crime as part of an innovative safety project.

Versatile signs key as safety project sets blueprint


Variable message signs are being deployed to help fight crime as part of an innovative safety project.

Versatile signs key as safety project sets blueprint


Date: 6th February 2014

Variable message signs are being deployed to help fight crime as part of an innovative safety project.

Portable LED displays have long been used to manage traffic and relay real-time information to road users.

But the versatile units are now being used to deter criminals and promote special safety initiatives among other things.

It’s an innovative idea which has already secured some startling results – and it’s one which looks set to catch on.

Civic leaders in East Sussex were among the first to see the full potential of portable Variable Message Signs (pVMS) and have been taking part in a collaborative effort designed to improve safety.

The Community Safety Partnership for the Rother area pooled their resources to invest in a portable unit from leading suppliers Mobile Traffic Solutions (MTS).

The body, which includes representatives from the police, fire service, district and county councils, the probation service and the local Clinical Commissioning Group, has since been sharing it in various locations around the region.

Not only is the sign deployed to manage traffic, it’s used to display key safety information, to appeal for witnesses to incidents or accidents and keep residents and visitors up to date with events in the area.

The success of the scheme is being measured by a wealth of encouraging feedback – and some positive results.

Police reported a dramatic reduction in the number of burglaries at a crime hotspot in the county after putting a message on the sign telling of extra patrols in the area.

Follow-up initiatives have prompted comparable results and there was a similarly positive effect when the sign was used as part of an anti-speeding campaign.

Inspector James Scott, of Sussex Police – a key member of the Community Safety Partnership for Rother – says the success of the venture has been something of an eye-opener.

He said: “We jointly identified certain priorities and bought the sign together to help implement our strategy.
“It’s been utilised for a wide variety of messages above and beyond traffic management and I would certainly say the idea has been a great success.

“We’ve targeted burglars by advertising an increased police presence in certain areas and then seen the number of crimes in that area drop dramatically. We’ve also used it to make local communities aware of a particular crime trend in their area.

“The unit has played a part in a Community Speed Watch initiative, again with some excellent results, while it’s been used to reveal road closures, promote alternative routes and advertise events.

“It has already been used much more than was originally anticipated, not just by us but by other members of the Partnership including the fire service, and we’re all extremely happy with the results so far.”

Inspector Scott believes the Community Safety Partnership is the first body of its kind to use variable message signs in such a diverse way. But he thinks they could be soon be one of many.

He added: “I think we were blazing a trail by using the sign for things other than traffic management, but after the success we’ve had I think other areas will follow suit.”

The Advantage 4280 pVMS used in East Sussex is fully compliant for use on highways or urban roads but compact enough to deploy in many different locations. It’s a cost-effective solution which is easy to operate and manoeuvre, requires low maintenance and is highly sustainable.

The battery-powered unit is a full matrix LED trailer-mounted sign which uses innovative battery powered solar recharge technology to give it an energy efficient advantage.

Each sign is pre-programmed with up to 200 Highways Agency approved messages and pictograms, but creating bespoke messages with drop-down menus is simple.

All displays are fully programmable, allowing operators complete flexibility and, thanks to remote access via the internet, they can be changed by logging on to any web-enabled device. And the Advantage 4280 is capable of displaying up to five lines of 16 characters over multiple pages.

Andrew Leigh, of MTS, which is part of the Rennicks Group, said: “Portable variable message signs were first created to enhance road safety by providing reliable driver information.

“The portable units offer an excellent solution through times of potential disruption, but it’s good to see them being used to good effect in other areas too.

“Our signs are capable of displaying the highest legibility in messages and graphics so they are particularly versatile.

“The collaborative approach taken by the Community Safety Partnership in Rother is a great idea as it means several different bodies are able to use the sign for their own purposes.

“And the success of this initiative is perhaps something that other similar bodies around the country will look at and want for themselves.”

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