Speeding Problem?

The Problem:
New playing fields are going to be built on the lot across the street from our school. Unfortunately, people will need to cross Route 121 (a 2-lane highway) to get to those fields.  Currently, the proposed pedestrian crossing is a crosswalk with a flashing yellow light. Is there a speeding problem on Route 121? Do you think the proposed crossing is adequate?

The Solution:
We are videoing the traffic in front of the school with Flip cams and analyzing the videos in LoggerPro. Luckily, the fence posts are 10 feet apart and are perfect for setting the scale in the analysis!

(Feed readers may need to click through to view embedded video.)

If the school had put a police officer or a “Your Speed Is…” sign in front of the school, people would slow down, and the data would not be representative of real traffic. We hope that by recording traffic from a distance, drivers will be more likely to maintain their true speed. We also hope to collect lots of data during different times of the day (different classes) to help in our analysis.

This simple activity serves as an introduction to video analysis, so students will have another data collection and analysis tool at their disposal for future labs of their own design.
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8 responses to “Speeding Problem?

  1. In case speeding turns out to be a problem, some possible solutions make use of illusions:

    http://nudges.org/2008/07/14/another-visual-trick-to-nudge-drivers-to-slow-down/

    http://nudges.org/2010/01/11/measuring-the-lsd-effect-36-percent-improvement/

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-11000299

    Or build a bridge/tunnel :oP :o) Easier said than done, heh.
    It’s cool that your students are applying physics to a real-life problem. :oD

  2. The bridge and tunnel possibilities were actually looked into. The bridge would be unsightly and (if I recall correctly) would end up with the school losing the land for the fields (the land was donated with specific stipulations for its use and appearance). I think the tunnel had the potential to create an unsafe loitering spot. Turns out the DOT said only a flashing light is needed and a fence must be put up to prevent jaywalking.

    There is a residential road by my house where the town is thinking of widening the shoulder (to narrow the driving lane) to reduce speeding.

    Whoa! The lines on Lake Shore Drive in your second link are an awesome application of motion maps! I’m definitely showing this to my kids! Thanks!

  3. I really like this post, especially the thought you guys put in to trying not to affect the results of the experiment with things like a “Your speed is . . .” sign. Is there an update? You could always try what my brother wants to do on his residential road: put out a toy baby stroller in the road and freak out when someone hits it. He figures at least that person won’t speed past his house again. I suppose in this litigious society that’s best to keep in fantasy land.

    • Hi Andy!

      Before the fields were proposed and before Flip cameras were invented, we used to do this lab with stopwatches and a trundle wheel. We were quite the distraction on the side of the road!

      That stroller idea is pretty funny, but your right about the lawyers (we’ve got a lot of ‘em as parents here)!

      Follow-up: With the limited data we had, the majority of the groups concluded there was not a speeding problem in front of the school.

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