COLORADO — Once a week electronic road signs across Colorado show drivers the total number of deaths for the year on Colorado roads. “It’s called our Wednesday Memorial project,” said Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Traffic Safety Communication Manager, Sam Cole. The number of deaths on Colorado roads averages two a day. CDOT Safety leaders are dedicated to reducing the number.
Messaging on the electronic signs is part of the strategy. The death count is meant to be sobering. “We hope that it’s a wake-up call,” said Cole,” We hope it instills a little bit of humility, that wow I need to be careful. I don’t want to be next.”
Often the signs also show short, clever thoughts and phrases about driving safety issues. During the summer when a lot of people drive to the mountains, for example, a sign might say “camp in the mountains, not the left lane.”
“We are hoping for a reaction, said Cole, “That’s why we try to make the messages either funny, or clever, or even a little bit edgy.” The hope is people will respond by reflecting on their own driving habits and possibly sharing the message with others. “We want them to go to work, go home and talk about that message to their friends and family and have a discussion about traffic safety,” said Cole
“There are 250 of these digital message boards throughout the state, most often used to warn people about crashes ahead; that they need to slow down for adverse weather,” said Cole. The large signs are placed in prominent locations along interstates and highways.
The large permanent signs can be supplemented with temporary signs. They are used for special events and through construction zones. “A lot of tools in our toolbox,” said I-25 Gap, CDOT Project Director, Paul Neiman. The Gap project is an example where electronic signs are an integral part of the project. “These smart work zone devices, which are kind of a technology where we can change the message boards, the speed limits right here locally or we can do it from anywhere. At home if we want,” said Neiman. The signs give real time information and directions to drivers. It adds to driver and work crew safety.
Technology in the form of digital messaging, now makes many of Colorado’s major roads, their own kind of information highway. Traditional road signs still have purpose, but, electronic road signs now give drivers custom messaging that can be updated and changed remotely and in minutes.