Essex Highways, Safer, Greener, Healthier

Members' Guide 18 - Vehicular Activated Signs (VAS)

Introduction

Vehicular Activated Signs (VAS) and Speed Indicator Devices (SID) are signs with illuminated messages that flash when vehicles are travelling above a set trigger speed.

These signs are generally requested to help reinforce the message to drivers that they are driving too fast, usually above the speed limit.

In 2021, the Highway Practice Note (HPN) 032 was updated to permit ‘Parishes’ (including District/Borough/City Council) to install VAS or SID on the Highway network without the need to meet a set speed criteria. This gives Parishes the opportunity to install signs where a perceived speed issue occurs.

Typical issues

We have speeding issues!
Drivers do not understand the speed limit.
The existing signs are not working to slow speeds!

VAS have been installed in the County since 2003 with over 500 now in place but not all are having the desired effect. Parishes would still like to install VAS and SIDs where they have a perceived speeding problem to appease residents however the sites often do not meet the criteria. The criteria has now changed to enable Parishes to install VAS themselves in locations which they feel would gain the most benefit and with the flexibility to move them to keep the message fresh to the drivers.

Things to consider

40mph Slow Down Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS)

It is often the case that residents perception of a speeding problem is not supported by the speed data. If a VAS or SID is installed where there is not a speeding issue then the sign will not activate.

The HPN allows the purchase of VAS and SID signs by Parish Councils which are outside of the criteria published by Essex County Council (ECC) as long as they are owned and maintained by the Parish going forwards.  The following should be noted when a Parish is considering this option.

  • To be mindful that installing a permanent sign where mean speeds are already at or below 33mph will increase driver desensitisation and potentially negate any effectiveness.
  • Rotatable signs will need to be battery powered and the Parish will be responsible for organising and funding their rotation.
  • No parish-funded sign will be mains powered and therefore the following needs to be considered.
    • The size of the VAS in terms of LEDs (the more LEDs used the more power required).
    • The amount of ‘on time’ per activation, longer display periods will consume more power or battery life.
    • The number of activations in a 24 hour period - more activations require more battery power.
    • Physical site location - open area, under trees, shady, near buildings for solar or wind.
  • Consideration for insuring the equipment in the event of theft or damage - the equipment, pole and foundations are all the responsibility of the Parish listed on the licence.
  • Training by the manufacturer for the correct use of the sign installation and calibration in the case of use within different posted speed limit sites.
  • Additional battery packs.
  • Any manufacturers guarantee period and it is recommended that options to increase this time frame are undertaken with the manufacturer however this is the choice of the owning Parish.
  • It is NOT possible to consider the attachment of VAS signs to lamp columns, previously the structural integrity of the column would be assessed however it has now been determined that existing lamp columns are not designed to take a sign the size and weight of a VAS.
  • If the Parish install the sign then under the licencing process they will be responsible for that unit and the post it is mounted onto.

LHP funded VAS/SID

Speed Indicator Device with addtional text

VAS and SIDs are still an option for funding via the Local Highway Panel (LHP) if they meet the criteria set out in the HPN. The following should be noted for VAS funded by the LHP: -

  • Ongoing maintenance cost for LHP installed units will have an effect on the limited ECC revenue budget as the cost of maintenance will be the responsibility of the LHP revenue budget.
  • LHP units will only be installed where a significant speed problem or collision pattern is identified. The criteria will be an average of 10mph over the posted speed limit or to meet the Road Safety intervention level for a Casualty Reduction site (see Member’s Guide on Road Safety Schemes).
  • Any VAS meeting the criteria will still need to be recommended for funding by the LHP.

Typical schemes

The following table identifies the appropriate approval process and which signs could be suitable for each situation.

Image
Sign
Road Safety Engineering Team
Local Highway Panel Schemes
'Parish' Schemes 
VAS sign with Bend Ahead and Slow Down
Hazard signs
May use the signs as a collision reduction measure following site investigation
Only at sites identified by the Road Safety Engineering Team and as an approved collision reduction measure
Not permitted to avoid the overuse of this signage on the network detracting from the sites where they are required for safety reasons
Permanent SID/VAS
May use the signs as a collision reduction measure following site investigation
Only at sites as a collision reduction measure related to speeding or where the mean average is above 10mph above the posted speed limit.
May purchase and maintain the signs subject to a safety check on the location and installed using an approved contractor who is experienced in these works

Temporary SID/VAS
N/A
Only at sites identified as a collision reduction measure – the site to be monitored over a 12 month period and the results analysed.
May purchase and maintain the signs subject to a safety check on the location and installed using an approved contractor who is experienced in these works.  Groups/areas can work together to install temporary signs to rotate.

Scheme investigation/installation

The investigation of a new VAS/SID site will be the responsibility of the 'Parish' under the licencing process however your Highways Liaison Officer (HLO) is available for advice.

Process for the licence

  1. Investigation

    Requestor to check website criteria

  2. Requestor can ask their HLO for advice before applying

  3. Licence approved by Essex Highways

  4. Send licence application

  5. Parish to engage with an approved contractor

  6. Install the sign

  7. Tell us it is complete

Vehicular Activated Signs (VAS) and Speed Indicator Devices (SID) are signs with illuminated messages that flash when vehicles are travelling above a set trigger speed.

Schemes, which experience a significant speeding problem, can be requested via your County Councillor. An LHP application needs to be completed and forwarded to the County Member for support. Then the application will be sent by the County Member to Local.HighwayPanels@essexhighways.org for processing. Schemes funded by the LHP will either have an average mean speed of 10mph over the posted speed limit or meet the Casualty Reduction Criteria as investigated by the Road Safety Engineering Team and presented to the panel in March each year.

If the Parish would like to buy a new sign for installation on the highway then the following information needs to be included within the licence: -

  • An application form need to be completed for the licence application process which is attached as document at the bottom of this webpage.
  • Please gain written support from your County Councillor for your application.
  • Name of the requestor and the name of the overall authority responsible for the sign going forward needs to be included.
  • The sign is to be placed at least 70m within the speed limit.
  • The sign is to be either solar powered or battery powered but not mains powered.
  • Each application must include a street map of the proposed location for the sign.
  • The sign must be installed so the edge of the sign is 450mm min from edge of carriageway.
    • For a 450mm wide sign erected, the verge must be a minimum of 1.0m.
    • For a 450mm wide sign erected, the footway must be a minimum of 1.6m to allow buggies and wheelchairs to pass.
    • For a 600mm wide sign erected, the verge must be a minimum of 1.2m.
    • For a 600mm wide sign erected, the footway must be a minimum of 1.8m to allow buggies and wheelchairs to pass.
    • No sign larger than 600mm wide should be erected.
  • Sign should be placed in locations where it will be easy to access, maintain or move.
  • The existing speed limit should be in place for at least 12 months before a VAS/SID can be considered.
  • Please include the size of the sign, the material the sign is made of and the details of the foundations to be used.
  • The applicant must state if the sign will be on an existing post or new post.
  • Mounting height needs to be either 2.4m on a cycleway, 2.1m on a footway or 1.5m on a verge where people do not tend to walk.
  • The device should not be within close proximity of another VAS sign, neither should it be close to any other flashing equipment such as a pedestrian crossing or wig wag unit due to safety reasons.
  • The sign roundel must be no larger than 600m and should display either the 30mph roundel with or without ‘slow down’ message. It can be a SID which either shows the ‘face’ or the actual speed of drivers however this is to be set at a maximum activation speed of 45mph to prevent drivers using it to record their speed for racing purposes.

Costs and timescales

The costs of a scheme installed via the Local Highway Panel will be assessed, designed and installed via Essex Highways and the costs borne by the LHP. The LHP revenue budget will then pay for the maintenance of those signs until they reach the end of their serviceable life.

The costs of investigating a scheme for a VAS/SID to be installed by Parish/District/Borough or City Councils will be initially covered by the LHP however the remainder of the design, installation and ongoing maintenance costs will be borne by the installing body.

Existing signs on the network installed via Essex County Council budget will be maintained by the LHP revenue budget until they reach the end of their serviceable life. An assessment will take place to determine if the sign is fixable within a budget of £1,000. If this is exceeded the sign will be removed or offered to the relevant Parish Council to replace if so desired.

Glossary of terms

AVL
Automatic Vehicle Location (similar to RTPI)
CMA
Cabinet Member Action
CMB
Cabinet Member Briefing
EA
Environment Agency
ECC
Essex County Council
EH
Essex Highways
LHP
Local Highways Panel
NEPP
North Essex Parking Partnership
PP
Parking Partnership
RTPI
Real Time Passenger Information
S106
Section 106 (Money provided by a Developer to County Council to implement infrastructure as an obligation of the planning permission)
S278
Section 278 (Infrastructure required to be implemented by the Developer as an obligation of the planning permission)
SERP
Safer Essex Roads Partnership
SID
Speed Indicating Device
SEPP
South Essex Parking Partnership
SLO
Speed Limit Order
SSSI
Site of Special Scientific Interest
TRO
Traffic Regulation Order
TSRGD
Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions
VAS
Vehicular Activated Sign