Many schools use school zone flashing beacons to reduce the speed limit during the school start and end times. While all drivers are taught to slow down in school zones, flashing beacons increase driver compliance by drawing attention to their speed and/or the speed limit. These reductions in speed are important given that a person’s odds of surviving a vehicle impact fall from 90 percent at 10 mph to just 20 percent at 40 mph.
Municipalities must ensure their school zone flashing beacons are operating properly to realize any of these benefits. Often, municipalities utilize the summer off-season to maintain the beacons before the upcoming school year.
In this article, we will look at smart summer maintenance tips for school zone flashing beacons to ensure their proper function and reduce costs.
A person's odds of surviving a vehicle impact fall from 90 percent at 10 mph to just 20 percent at 40 mph. Click To Tweet
Test & Replace Equipment
It’s usually a good idea to test and replace all school beacon lamps before the start of the school year to minimize disruptions after school begins. At the same time, it’s important to ensure that the lights are dimmed in any way during the day or night in order to comply with Federal Highway Administration guidelines. Some municipalities may also have a so-called tattle-tale light facing the opposite direction of the signal that must also be tested and replaced.
In addition to the lamps, it’s important to test any radar signs to ensure that the positioning is correct and that the unit correctly records speeds. These units may be damaged or disabled if the school beacon was vandalized or hit by a vehicle or vandalized, and they may require recalibration. Batteries should also be tested and replaced, if applicable and needed, particularly in solar powered school beacons that require battery power to function properly.
Update Timer Schedules
Most school beacons are activated by a time clock that has been programmed for the entire school year, which means they don’t need to be manually re-programmed during holidays or summer months. However, they should still be updated whenever the yearly schedule changes to remain accurate. It’s usually a good idea to confirm any schedule changes with the school district and reprogram them, if necessary, during the summer.
Timers are often located on each individual school beacon, but in some cases, there may be a master cabinet that communicates with slave units around the perimeter of the school. If that’s the case, ensure the wireless transmitters are working between the master cabinet and slave units to keep the schedule synced.
Evaluate & Make Upgrades
There are many different types of school beacon technologies that municipalities should consider. In some cases, existing school beacons may have been installed many years ago and require modernization. In other cases, new technologies may be able to address key problems with maintenance, costs, and other factors.
Adding Radar Signs
Radar signs can be a great way to reduce speeds in school zones, particularly when used in conjunction with a school beacon. One study found that, in school zones, mean speeds were reduced between 1.5mph and 10mph or more, depending on the study location. The largest speed reductions are realized in areas where the speed limit is relatively high, which makes these especially important areas for municipalities to consider radar signage.
Switching to Solar
Most school beacons operate using AC power, but in many cases, solar power can provide greater reliability at a lower long-term cost, particularly in rural areas. Solar school beacons have a cabinet that contains a solar charge controller and battery, while the solar panel is mounted on a rack on side or top the pole.
The benefits of solar school beacons include
- No power interruption
- No electrical bills
- No trenching or boring for cable
The drawbacks of solar school beacons include
- Power generation versus consumption estimates must be accurate to ensure that the school beacons are always powered.
- Batteries may require periodic maintenance or replacement, although most modern solar beacon batteries last at least five years.
- Solar panels must be cleaned – or self-cleaning – to avoid build-up of debris or snow that can make the school beacon inoperable.
Connected school beacons can dramatically simplify maintenance and reduce costs for municipalities with build-in modems and GPS transponders.
Some of the greatest benefits include the ability to
- Remotely change schedules for any school beacons.
- Remotely monitor the radar speeds of vehicles.
- Automatically determine when a beacon has failed.
- Automatically report when a battery is failing.
Applied Information’s AI-500-070 School Beacon Timer Switch and Cellar Modem can be retrofitted into most existing school beacons and add these capabilities. In addition, the technology easily integrates with Applied Information’s Glance Central System to offer extended functionality, such as automated maintenance alerts that can be sent in real-time via email and text messages to the appropriate personnel.
Simplify Maintenance with Glance
Applied Information’s Glance is a supervisory system that enables users to easily monitor school beacon AC power, battery system voltage, solar charge voltage, and even possible lamp failures from any web browser. When a failure occurs, Glance can instantly send alerts to the necessary resources by email and text message. City personnel can also log in to change the school schedules remotely and ensure that beacons are turning on and off at the right times.
The user interface is map-based, which means that you can locate and manage all school beacons using Google Maps features, such as satellite view or street view, to know exactly where a failure is occurring in real-time.
The same platform can be used for pre-emption and priority systems, traffic intersection systems, parking solutions, and mobile solutions, such as weather stations or snow plows. By connecting all of the city’s resources to the single platform, managers, engineers, and other personnel have unparalleled insight over their resources and the ability to quickly respond to changing circumstances without the guesswork or manual site visits.
For more information about the Glance school zone management system, contact us at www.appinfoinc.com or call (678) 830-2170.