The FOX 8 I-Team has found drivers may find themselves passing more speed limit signs that change with the weather since those “variable speed limits” seem to be making one dangerous highway safer.
The Ohio Department of Transportation installed digital speed limit signs on a 12-mile section of I-90 in Lake County as a result of a series of chain-reaction pile-up crashes. The area gets hit hard by lake-effect snow and ice. ODOT can lower the speed limit temporarily there depending on the weather, and it seems to be making a difference.
Amanda McFarland, ODOT spokesperson, said, "With that variable speed limit implemented last year, we saw no major pile-ups like we had seen in the past."
And now, the state is deciding whether to do the same thing along a much bigger stretch of I-90. McFarland added, "We're trying to decide whether it's best to expand it to the east, or the west, or to the entire lake-effect area."
The I-Team wondered how do those signs get changed? Who's making that call? You may be surprised to find it’s not someone in the neighborhood. In fact, not even someone driving on that section of highway.
Turns out, the signs get changed by workers at ODOT headquarters in Columbus. There, they monitor the weather, highway cameras, pavement temperatures, even reports from road crews. Then, they decide to slow down the traffic, or get it back up to regular speed.
Not always an easy call. Sometimes, drivers hit sunny conditions going into that area, but they find white-out conditions just a short distance later. ODOT says, sometimes the slower speed limit can provide just enough warning to help drivers avoid the chain-reaction crashes.
One trucker we met reacted by saying, "Gotta do what they gotta do to try and stop accidents and save lives."
We’ll let you know if more of the variable speed limit signs go up where you drive.