PAINESVILLE, Ohio — Ohio transportation officials say that a new variable speed limit (VSL) section in Lake County has reduced the number of crashes along Interstate 90.
According to a news release, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Lake County Sheriff’s Department worked together to develop the first VSL section of highway in the state, using digital speed limit signs to reduce the speed limit during adverse weather.
The Ohio General Assembly also played a key role, modifying the state’s speed limit law in the spring of 2017 to give ODOT the authority to temporarily reduce the statutory speed limit on this stretch of I-90.
From 2005 to 2015, I-90 between SR 44 and SR 528 saw a yearly average of 76 crashes reported, 37 in the winter, according to ODOT.
Since the implementation of the VSL in 2017, crashes along this stretch of I-90 have dropped by over 35 percent to an average of 49 per year, with 21 in the winter.
“ODOT’s basic mission is simple; save lives by making our system safer,” said John Picuri P.E., P.S. District 12 Deputy Director. “This is a great example of our engineers, maintenance forces and local safety forces working together to utilize technology to increase safety during severe weather events that are unique to this area along Lake Erie.”
How it works
The VSL sign system works in coordination with ODOT’s existing Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) that includes traffic cameras, dynamic message signs and road weather information stations to monitor visibility and precipitation.
All this information is funneled to the ODOT Traffic Management Center (TMC) in Columbus.
The TMC works with local law enforcement and ODOT managers to make decisions on when to lower speed limits. When the weather changes, the speed limits are reduced in 10 mph increments to warn motorists of hazardous traveling conditions.
For example, a moderate amount of precipitation would warrant a 60-mph speed limit, while blowing and drifting conditions with poor visibility could warrant a 50-mph speed limit. The lowest permitted speed limit is 30 mph, reserved for high-impact events such as a full road closure.
Since the system went live in 2017, major crashes have been reduced by more than half, rear-end crashes dropped from 19 to eight, and fatal and injury crashes decreased from 20 to nine crashes per year.
Motorists can check if speed limits have been reduced by downloading the OHGO app or visiting OHGO.com.
Click here to watch a short video from the Loop about the VSL on I-90 in Lake County.
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.