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Variable Speed Limits Aim To Cut Down On Collisions

TxDOT tries out new system designed to prevent rear-end crashes.



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State transportation officials want to know if variable speed limits will help drivers focus their attention as they head into traffic jams. Right now they’re testing the system in three locations, including Loop 1604 in San Antonio. That’s a heavily-traveled roadway on the city’s northside that carries about 128 thousand vehicles a day.

TxDOT’s Josh Donay says when sensors in the road detect a backup, portable signs start flashing a lower speed limit.

“The idea behind it is to get you to slow down as you head into congestion on a gradual scale, so you don’t come right on it, and all of a sudden decide, oh darn, that person in front of me is stopped.”

Donay says they’re trying to figure out if variable speed limits will help prevent rear-end collisions. He says it’s not uncommon to have a secondary accident when traffic is backed up behind a crash.

“And usually that happens because somebody is not quite paying attention, whether they’re on the phone or texting or whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re not paying attention to what’s going on. And all of a sudden traffic is at a standstill, and they’re still trying to do 70 MPH and there’s a crash.”   

Donay says TxDOT will test the system for about three months before deciding whether to expand it to other parts of the state.

TxDOT is testing variable speed limits on a segment of Loop 1604 in San Antonio. Photo courtesy Texas Department of Transportation.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

News Anchor

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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