Speed limit signs malfunctioning on I-285

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Atlanta drivers on the top end of I-285 will now have their speeds regulated by variable speed limits (VSL) signs posted along the perimeter highway as seen near Roswell Road during rush hour on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 in Atlanta. The new electronic signs went into effect in early October and they are capable of changing speed limits to either higher or lower speeds as traffic ebbs and flows throughout the day. David Tulis / AJC Special

What happens when you can’t trust the information posted on electronic speed limit signs?

Apparently, drivers just go with the flow.

The variable speed-limit signs along the top end of I-285 have been malfunctioning on a regular basis since the $4.9 million system was installed in October 2014.

Many drivers seem to be disregarding the signs (if they ever really followed them) and, surprisingly, no uptick in wrecks has been noted by local police.

Over the summer, one in five signs were displaying wrong information at any given time, or displayed no information at all. That ratio has improved today to about one in 10.

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Atlanta drivers on the top end of I-285 have their speeds regulated by variable speed limits (VSL) signs posted along the perimeter highway as seen near Roswell Road during rush hour on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 in Atlanta. David Tulis / AJC Special

Officials at the Georgia Department of Transportation have said signs posted on opposite sides of the road often have problems “talking” to each other via wireless radio signals. Also, drivers have been plowing into the signs and putting them out of commission at a rate higher than the department initially anticipated. Four such signs are broken as of this week, according to GDOT.

Repairing the damaged signs inside the median can be tricky because it requires lane closures. Also, the work can’t be done when it’s rainy (and this fall has been exceptionally wet).

What do you do when a variable speed limit sign seems wrong for traffic conditions – obey the posted speed or set your own pace?

For additional details about how the variable speed limit system is supposed to work and why GDOT has chosen to use this technology,  click here to see our in-depth coverage in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


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