Slow Down! Beaverton company is industry leader in 'speed check' traffic signs

Fifteen mph over the speed limit will get you a speeding ticket. (KATU)

Anyone who drives probably sees them every day: the flashing signs near schools, side streets, main thoroughfares and freeways that tell you how fast you're going -- followed, often, by the admonition to “slow down.”

The company's name may be kind of boring -- Information Display Company -- but its rise to become the largest supplier of those flashing speed check signs is anything but.

And its start came in the shape of a radar gun to measure the speed of a pitcher's fastball.

“Got the idea to build a radar gun just because I could,” said co-owner Scott Kelley. “It just seemed like something fun to do. I started selling those for baseball training.”

Kelley then decided to connect the radar gun to a large display.

Sometime in the early 1990s, police agencies began to put the displays on trailers along busy highways to reduce speeding. A light went off in Kelley's head as he drove past a school.

“It just struck me that there should be one of these signs mounted on a telephone pole in front of the school,” he recalled. “And so I decided I would design a product specifically for that.”

What at first caught on with law enforcement was picked up by departments of transportation and cities. Some 20 years later, the company with staff of about 13 people has turned out many thousands of the speed check signs in its small Beaverton shop.

Data -- some of it collected by the signs themselves -- shows that the signs work.

“Everybody says I really love those things, they get me to slow down," Kelley said. “Otherwise, I'm afraid I might wind up with a ticket.”

"What completely convinced me was when I drove past one, and I slowed down myself," said Kelley. "And I did that and thought, 'That is amazing.'"

While the signs may look passive, proprietary software allows users to download data that recorded the speed of passing cars. Some signs are put up under wraps and collect data to find the default speed before being activated. The signs are tough, too, with a flexible LED light board that can withstand impact. Seventy percent of them are solar-powered. and people slow down.

“The data shows that they tend to continue to work over a long period of time,” Kelley said.

Expect to see more and more of these speed check and advisory speed limit signs. Officials with the company say it's all part of a movement toward “intelligent transportation.”

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