Flashing Lights in School Zones

“The Canberra Liberals will provide funding to install flashing lights in all school zones to remind motorists of the need to slow down. Whilst some motorists will consciously speed through school zones, most, I believe would do so because of a momentary lack of concentration or poor signage. If these lights save one life, it will be a success.”

Alistair Coe MLA

Shadow Minister for Transport


Proven technology

Flashing signage and beacons in school zones have proven their effectiveness over several decades as a ‘traffic calming’ measure. These systems warn motorists that they have entered a low speed school zone, on school days.

These systems help motorists discern the time of day when reduced speed limits are in force and help avoid confusion around the start or end of school holidays.

In 1993, Neil Hawkins wrote an article entitled ‘Modified signs, flashing beacons and school zone speeds’ for the Institute of Transportation Engineers (USA). In that article, he said:

Following installation of the new signs [with flashing lights], average speeds were reduced by 9.3 percent. One year after installation the average speeds maintained a 7 percent reduction. Before the installation of the flashing beacons, the highest speeds were found in the afternoon studies. One year after installation, the afternoon speeds maintained an 8.8 percent reduction while the morning speeds maintained a 5.6 percent reduction.

In New South Wales, there has been a sustained effort over a number of years to boost the rollout of this technology.

The following evidence was given in 2010 to a NSW Parliamentary Committee:

Mr Mark Wolstenholme, Senior Policy Adviser ‐ Traffic & Roads, NRMA:

NRMA believes that a motorist’s awareness of school zones and ability to comply with the speed limit has been significantly improved where flashing lights have been installed, with positive implications for road safety. This is based on a variety of evidence including NRMA’s own observations and feedback received from NRMA Members that flashing lights help motorists identify both the school zone and when it is operational, enabling them to adjust their speed accordingly.

Research shows that flashing lights reduce ambiguity about a school zone’s operational status, and thus improve compliance with the 40km/h speed limit. It is in everyone’s interest to maximise compliance, and so it would appear to be logical that flashing lights should be deployed first at those locations which have the greatest differential between the normal speed limit and the school zone limit.

NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Ms Vanessa Whittington:

…the Commission believes every school in NSW should have a flashing light warning system in place so that all children enjoy the same level of protection. The Commission supports the Auditor-General’s recommendation to improve the visibility of school zones by increasing the use of flashing light warning systems and fitting flashing lights at all school zones with non-standard operating times.

Mrs Kelly MacDonald, Federation of Parents and Citizens’ Associations of New South Wales:

Flashing lights remind drivers of the presence of a school in the area and therefore the presence of students as pedestrians. It is unfortunate that drivers can sometimes choose to ignore road signs around schools especially when trials have shown that drivers reduce speed significantly when flashing lights operate.

Our solution

The Canberra Liberals will install flashing lights in all school zones to remind motorists of the need to slow down in designated hours on school days.