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Peter Olsen & His Flashing School Lights

If you're in NSW, you may have seen those "check speed" signs with flashing lights mounted near the large "school zone" signs which mark the areas around schools where children will be present before and after school. They're the result of a lot of political pressure - and heartache - by Peter Olsen over the past six years. Of particular interest to SILICON CHIP, they're powered by PICAXE microcontrollers.

By Ross Tester

Most people acknowledge that flashing warning lights in school zones will alert drivers of the need to slow traffic down and therefore, it is presumed, prevent accidents – and save lives.

Much more so, in fact, than the static “school zone” signs we have known for more than a decade.

So if you were the NSW State Government and were given the option of changing your $58,000 lights to $1,400 lights – with proven greater reliability, higher accuracy and a measured lower average vehicle speed, would you do it?

No, you’d embark on an expensive PR campaign to denigrate the alternative lights and their developer, completely ignoring the fact that you, as a Government, had foregone the benefits and were determined to press on with your program, regardless.

More than that, you’d launch a “dirty tricks” campaign to prove that your flashing lights were better, even to the extent of banning use of the others in public streets (current installations have all been on private property).

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