The Digital Desk

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It's a sign of the times ... the digital age

by Don Gammill Modified: August 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm •  Published: August 14, 2013

Like most people these days, my time is limited. So if you want to catch my attention, make it informational, interesting and important.

Oklahoman Archives
Oklahoman Archives

No surprise here, those were considerations years ago when development began on signs such as those placed in “smart zones” along roadways.

You see the results in many areas of the nation these days, providing information about a variety of circumstances, from weather to road conditions, traffic flow to detours, from advance notice on upcoming work to fire dangers, from Amber Alerts to Silver Alerts and more.

These may be on large permanent overhead signs along a major thoroughfare, or maybe a smaller mobile sign that can be transported for immediate use.

The information on travel situations may come from observations made by law enforcement personnel on the road, or from such sources as cameras mounted along the route and monitored from a station miles away.

Before we go any further, yes, there are locales where cameras are used to catch violators, such as those who run red lights. But most traffic uses focus on high-volume areas where better traffic flow is critical.

For instance, cameras have been positioned along the interstates in cities such as Oklahoma City

6/3/04 El Reno. Oklahoma Department of Transportation is using "Smart Zone" signs to inform drivers of slow traffic in a construction zone in ElReno. The sign receives information from microwave sensors in the construction zone and relays that information to the sign.  Staff photo by Doug Hoke.
6/3/04 El Reno. Oklahoma Department of Transportation is using "Smart Zone" signs to inform drivers of slow traffic in a construction zone in ElReno. The sign receives information from microwave sensors in the construction zone and relays that information to the sign. Staff photo by Doug Hoke.

to monitor how well traffic is flowing. If there is a bottleneck, that information can be transmitted to drivers by using the “smart zone” signs.

That can be of major importance to travelers.

Personally, I appreciate the advance warning that I’m headed toward a work area, where traffic is slowed to a crawl. I then may have time to take an alternate route and avoid a loss of time and the additional stress.

Same is true when weather conditions affect travel. Information on road conditions enhances safety. These signs have helped motorists in parts of our state avoid slick and treacherous roadways, for instance, during snowy and icy conditions.

WINTER WEATHER / ICY ROADS / STREETS / INTERSTATE 44: The ice-covered roads kept traffic at a minimum on I-44 during the morning commute on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009, in Oklahoma City, Okla.  PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN  ORG XMIT: KOD
WINTER WEATHER / ICY ROADS / STREETS / INTERSTATE 44: The ice-covered roads kept traffic at a minimum on I-44 during the morning commute on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009, in Oklahoma City, Okla. PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN ORG XMIT: KOD

Using these signs for other information can be a major assist. Amber Alerts, when children have been taken from their legal guardians, can provide descriptions of the missing individual, and possibly the vehicle and/or person thought to have taken them. These signs have given authorities more “eyes” to help with their search efforts.

That also can be said for Silver Alerts, when someone older with a medical condition is missing.

Recently, when some school districts began their new year, signs reminded motorists to watch their speeds in school zones.

These are only some of the ways these signs can be used effectively.

Large, digital billboards with bright illustrations work well for advertising, the signs with traffic and similar information work well for drivers.

Information highways? We’re certainly headed into new areas.

But I’m still wondering about that sign on southbound Broadway Extension around Hefner Road after last week’s storm outbreak in parts of the country that told me: “Flooding in Missouri.”

 

 

 

by Don Gammill
General Assignment Editor and Columnist
Don Gammill is general assignment editor and columnist. A native of Ponca City, he graduated from Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma). While in college, he was a sports stringer for The Oklahoma City Times....
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