COURTESY OF ODOT - New real-time speed signs have helped reduce traffic problems on Highway 217, according to a new Oregon Department of Transportation study after a year of the signs use.A year ago, new signs went up along Highway 217 warning drivers to slow down.

The results are in, and it turns out you listened.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, the number of crashes on the busy highway — which stretches from Beaverton to Tigard, connecting drivers from Highway 26 south Interstate 5 — has dropped significantly since new variable speed limit signs and other electronic signs began operating more than a year ago.

Known as “ODOT RealTime,” the signs went online in July 2014. The signs display information to drivers about crashes and congestion.

When traffic slows below 50 miles per hour, advisory speed signs tell drivers to slow down before they reach problem areas.

“Highway 217 is fast, hilly and has winding sections where queued up traffic can come up on you really quickly,” said Don Hamilton, a spokesman with ODOT. “We like to use the word ‘fender bender,’ which sounds cute and innocent, but that can cause a lot of expenses: Car repairs, medical bills, it’ll take time to go to the doctor or time lost from work, not to mention significant delays on the road. These are the things we are trying to address.”

The signs are meant to help alleviate congestion and prevent crashes and looking at the numbers, it appears to be working.

Driver and police reports from July 2014 to July 2015 show crashes down 20.8 percent from the previous year, according to ODOT. That’s 183 crashes reported on the highway between July 2014 and July 2015, down from 231 the previous year. The average delay on the highway decreased by 10 percent.

“It’s very encouraging,” Hamilton said. “We are really pleased with what we’ve been seeing so far.”

What crashes have occurred are generally less severe as well. Two fatality crashes were reported on the highway during the one year period, down from five the previous year.

The declining crash data comes amid an increase in the overall cars using the highway, according to ODOT. Five percent more cars used Highway 217 during that period, according to ODOT. Traffic on the highway has doubled over the last 30 years.

It’s a program that ODOT officials had talked about for years. Former U.S. Congressman David Wu proposed installing the signs along the highway in 2010.

ODOT plans to install more RealTime signs in other parts of Washington County, such as Tualatin Valley Highway, Hamilton said.

“That’s one of those old farm-to-market roads that has grown up a lot,” he said. “I remember when it was a rural area, and it certainly isn’t now. If we can see similar efficiencies there that’d be great. It’s a quality of life issue. Being able to get home or to work on time isn’t a minor issue.”

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