Choosing the right radar speed display for your community

     Radar speed displays have become the technology of choice for a growing number of law enforcement professionals looking to slow traffic. In a national survey of police officers, traffic engineers and corporate safety officials, the displays were...

Power options

     Radar speed displays require a power source. This can mean A/C or battery power, or solar energy; the right choice typically comes down to cost and flexibility.

     The energy cost of operating a radar speed display is relatively low; about the same as running a night-light. However, the sign's installation and maintenance cost can be significant.

     Gaining access to A/C power may require running wires beneath existing streets. If the sign is to be mounted near an A/C power source, it's possible to tap into that power; typically the utility company allows you to pay a flat rate for the sign's energy consumption. Sometimes, the utility requires that meters be installed in order to measure the amount of energy being used.

     To address applications where A/C power is cost-prohibitive, some models offer battery-powered functionality. While these signs may cost less to install, they typically require maintenance. Batteries require constant recharging — typically every two weeks. And battery life is usually short, so replacement costs must be considered.

     Given the potential drawbacks of A/C and battery-powered signs, many users are opting for solar-powered units. Thanks to reduced power consumption, fewer panels are required to operate the displays, thereby reducing the price of solar powered signs dramatically.

Design considerations

     Design variations also should be considered when choosing the right radar speed display, as different lights and accessories can affect the amount of energy required to operate the sign. The moving parts in flip-style electro-mechanical displays are more susceptible to wear and damage than LED signs, and may also require more electricity to operate. The size of the display's messaging can differ, too. Fifteen-inch lettering is often preferred over 12-inch versions.

     Finally, high contrast enhancement technologies and advanced glare management techniques can improve sign visibility while reducing the amount of power required, resulting in clearer electronic lettering. The type of lighting and the way that the LEDs are set into the face have an impact on overall effectiveness as well.

     Every agency's goal when shopping this type of speed control unit is to find a product that's effective, efficient and safe to use on the streets.

     John Dixon is a Portland, Oregon-based business writer who focuses on traffic, safety and new technology.

A brief overview of products offered by three major manufacturers: Information Display Company (IDC)

     According to an IDC spokesperson, the company's SpeedCheck radar speed signs are used in more U.S. cities than any other brand. The signs incorporate a variety of patented technologies designed to increase display visibility (UltraClear), maximize safe use (SafetyMask) and thwart vandalism. The units permit the added use of accessories such as flashing lights and come in A/C, battery-powered or solar-powered configurations.

Radarsign LLC

     Radarsign is headquartered just outside of Atlanta. Radarsign makes three basic models: A/C powered, rechargeable battery powered and solar powered units. The company touts its products' rugged, vandal-resistant features, including its Bashplate design, which is constructed to withstand severe abuse.


     In 2000, 3M purchased American Electronic Sign, a company that first began manufacturing electronic signs used for advertising. Over time, the company has leveraged this purchase to become a major player in, among other areas, the variable speed control (VSC) display industry.

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