Press Club

Electronic Sign Shows Seemingly Obvious Message

Electronic sign at Washington Blvd and Route 50 (photo courtesy @CruiseInDeCarr)An electronic sign the Arlington County Police Department stationed at Washington Boulevard and Route 50 is raising some eyebrows. Not because the message it displays is risqué, but rather because it seems so obvious.

The sign has been programmed to display the phrase “don’t hit the car in front of you.” The message has drawn national media attention, with the likes of Fox News and The Blaze picking up the story.

Earlier this month, @CruiseInDeCarr tweeted a photo of the sign to ARLnow.com, adding: “You wouldn’t think we’d need a sign for this.” While that may be the logical assumption, it appears drivers haven’t heeded the obvious advice, considering that intersection came in as the top area for motor vehicle accidents in Arlington during the second quarter of 2013. During that time period, police responded to 11 accidents at the site, nearly all of them rear-end collisions.

The ACPD believes the sign has caught drivers’ attention due to the simplicity of the wording.

“The current message was an attempt to simplify the message to reduce the amount of accidents as much as possible,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “It’s intended to have a positive effect in terms of reducing the number of accidents because that site has been identified as a top accident location in Arlington. As long as people are paying attention, it [the sign] may affect their driving behavior.”

The sign is one of four the ACPD purchased from 2004-2006. It cost around $16,000, with about half of the cost being covered by grant money from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. All the messages displayed on the boards rotate and are changed after two months. Previous messages included “high accident area ahead”, “no merge area”, “safety is no accident” and “maintain safe following distance.”

The signs are mounted on trailers that can be moved around the county to warn drivers of construction zones, inform them of traffic safety campaigns or alert them to special events. The ACPD says the signs operate on deep cycle 12 volt batteries and the necessary maintenance is minimal.

Photo courtesy @CruiseInDeCarr

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