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California: State Billboards Encourage Speeding
Travel time estimates on transportation department billboards in California are encouraging drivers to speed.

Roadside billboard
A San Mateo, California resident has discovered that the roadside electronic billboards operated by the local transportation commission display travel information that encourages speeding. The expensive signs are designed to forecast the amount of time needed in minutes to reach a certain destination, such as the San Francisco International Airport.

Randy Hees tested whether it was possible to arrive in the amount of time promised by the message board if he adhered strictly to the speed limit. He found a six-mile trip on the 101 freeway was off by two full minutes if one drove at the 65 MPH limit.

The speed of traffic in the region is monitored using FastTrak electronic toll transponders and sensors embedded into the pavement. The average Bay Area traffic speeds are available online but do not show the speed of traffic when it exceeds the limit. Southern California freeway information, however, routinely shows that a majority of people traveling in excess of underposted speed limits. For example, the average speed on a stretch of the 73 freeway near Newport Beach was 75 MPH in a 65 zone.

"The fact is our lives are being better documented every day," Hees told the San Mateo County times. "And privacy issues go way beyond whether or not Caltrans is using my transponder to gauge how fast traffic is running between my house and the airport."

Source: Can 511 billboards make you speed? (San Mateo County Times (CA), 10/29/2006)

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