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County of Santa Clara Steps Up Traffic Safety Efforts

Last modified: 4/19/2012 5:15 PM

Speed Feedback Sign InstallationsNew Traffic Safety Equipment Targets School Zones and Expressways

CONTACTS — Gwendolyn Mitchell and Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, 408-299-5119   or   Masoud Akbarzadeh, Roads & Airports Department, 408-494-1336

SAN JOSE, CA — Beginning in January, 2005, the County of Santa Clara Roads & Airports Department began increasing public awareness to combat school zone speeding and red light running on County expressway intersections.  The Roads and Airports Department will install eight electronic driver speed display signs in the vicinity of four schools, and 240 Red Light Enforcement Indicators (also known as “Rat" boxes) at the top 30 high-incidence County expressway intersections.  The electronic speed display signs indicate the actual speed of an approaching vehicle and are effective in encouraging motorists to slow down in school zones.  Rat boxes are electronic devices that enable police to identify red light runners from the far side of an intersection, and to quickly and safely pursue, stop and cite the violators.

"Many collisions could be avoided if motorists would comply with traffic signals,” said Michael Murdter, County of Santa Clara Director of Roads & Airports.   “The County’s goal is to make streets and roadways safer and to reduce the number of red light related collisions, which often cause severe injuries and deaths.”

Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in Santa Clara County.  The estimated annual cost of collision-related injuries and deaths exceeds $500 million.  The County Roads & Airports Department is now using a combination of automobile monitoring technology, law enforcement and public education to address this problem.  The electronic speed display signs will be posted in combination with standard speed limit signage, typically 25 mph in school zones, to reestablish awareness of the school zone speed limit.  Studies demonstrate these signs are effective in achieving a five to seven miles per hour speed reduction. 

“We are also posting red light violation advisory signs at various locations along County-maintained expressways to educate the public and deter them from running red lights,” Murdter continued.  “We believe if motorists are aware that the minimum fine for red light violations is $336, they will be less likely to speed through intersections as signals are changing to red.”

traffic lightThe Red Light Enforcement Indicators -- aka "Rat" boxes, so called because they "rat" on offenders -- feature a small Light-Emitting Diode (LED) that faces opposite the traffic light; the LED illuminates when the traffic light cycles to red.  Officers can position for stakeout in a place where they can see the limit line and the Rat box, simultaneously.  With this device, an officer no longer has to follow an offender through a red light to issue a ticket; he or she will already be on the far side of the intersection.  

The electronic speed display signs and Rat boxes are being purchased as part of a $156,320 grant provided by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).   The County’s goal is to eventually equip every major intersection on County-maintained expressways with Rat boxes. 

“Getting better tools such as this for the County of Santa Clara is going to save more lives,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees the Office of Traffic Safety.  “Speed display signs are easily seen by oncoming drivers which prompt drivers to naturally reduce their speed.”

The Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department will work with law enforcement agencies through this OTS-funded Traffic Safety Campaign.  More information is available at the Department’s website at

The official press release may be viewed by clicking on this Press Release link.

To view a video explaining how the RAT BOX is used, click on this RAT BOX link.  The video is best viewed when using Microsoft's Internet Explorer v.5.5 or above, and Microsoft's Media Player v.9.0 or above;  users of other browsers or lesser versions of Media Player could experience difficulty viewing the video.  Click on this link if you need to install Microsoft's Media Player v.9.0 or above for either Windows or the Macintosh.

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