It’s been almost six months since drivers going through Lake Point on SR-36 started to see their velocity flash on speed feedback signs, and results are mixed on whether or not they have helped reduce accidents.
On April 16, four solar-powered speed feedback signs were installed by the Utah Department of Transportation along SR-36 through Lake Point.
The signs, two for northbound motorists and two for southbound, were erected after a series of crashes in 2012, including a fatal crash last November that killed a mother and daughter.
The area’s notoriety for speeding motorists and frequent accidents goes beyond last year as well. The posted speed limit through Lake Point is 55 mph.
The signs gauge and then flash a car’s speed on a digital display. The signs’ purpose is to alert drivers if they are exceeding the posted speed limit, and if they are, to slow down.
The hope from traffic authorities was that slower cars would mean fewer—or at least less severe—crashes along the infamous strip, which features several businesses with separate entranceways onto SR-36.
Whether or not the signs have accomplished that goal since April depends on who’s answering the question and what data is being used.
According to a UDOT study, motorists on SR-36 through Lake Point are traveling between 49.7 to 65.8 mph. Those numbers represent an overall decrease in speed of between 3 and 5 miles per hour, which is a positive change, said Adan Carillo, public information officer for UDOT.
“That’s really good for us,” he said. “It does show that speeds are actually going down when people see those speed feedback signs.”
Carillo said typical speeds, and changes in that speed through an area, depend on the type of locality and the traffic setup there. He said UDOT does not conduct traffic studies for crashes, to see if there has been an increase or decrease in collisions, until the signs have been in place for at least six months.
However, numbers from the Utah Highway Patrol show that, although SR-36 motorists are slowing down through Lake Point, the number of crashes from last year to the present has only faintly decreased.
According to crash totals from the agency, from April 16, 2012 to Oct. 8, 2012, there were 18 total crashes from just south of Sunset Lane to Hardy Road, located south of the I-80 entrance and exit.
Of those 18 crashes, 13 were no injury or property damage only, one had a non-incapacitating injury and four had possible injuries.
From April 16, 2013 to Oct. 8, 2013, troopers responded to 17 crashes—only one less than last year. Of those, 13 were no injury or property damage only, three had non-incapacitating injuries and one had a possible injury. Included in those numbers, there were two fatalities in 2012, while 2013 had no fatalities in that area in the same time span.
Whether or not the signs have made Lake Point’s highway area more safe is not yet clear, but officers on the road have seen corroborating evidence that people are slowing down.
Trooper Clint Fawson said he didn’t know the crash totals, but when patrolling the area, had seen results in the form of flashing brake lights.
“All I can tell you is what I visually see. What I do see is a reaction to the signs,” Fawson said. “I do see when people see the signs and they start flashing the numbers, I do see them slowing down.”