The Province of British Columbia is committed to eliminating serious injuries and fatalities. One way to reach this goal is through increased use of intelligent transportation technologies. The Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) combined with variable message signs (VMS) are an innovative safety tool that is being rolled out in British Columbia in areas that experience changing road conditions due to weather events.
Weather in B.C. can change rapidly, especially in winter. Adverse weather conditions create an environment in which it is difficult for drivers to navigate safely. RWIS can be utilized to provide travelers with information on current weather and road conditions via electronic variable message signs and reduce the frequency and severity of winter collisions.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has combined RWISs and VMSs at seven locations on rural highways that experience extreme winter weather conditions and a poor safety performance. Each system comprises of a RWIS connected to two VMSs, one in each travel direction. The RWIS system automatically analyzes weather and road conditions every 15 minutes and an algorithm selects an appropriate sign message to provide real time information to the road users.
The safety benefits for implementing a RWIS/VMS were evident with an overall reduction of over 30% in severe winter collisions. The benefits of implementing a RWIS/VMS exceeded the cost, with an overall benefit-cost ratio of 4.8. This indicates that the implementation of RWIS/VMS in British Columbia was an effective investment in improving highway safety.
Based on the success of the RWIS/VMS systems in BC, the Ministry has expanded the program to include other ITS technology, such as the LED equipped static signs to alert motorists to specific road conditions, such as the fog warning or icy road sections. The Ministry is continuing to monitor the benefits of the RWIS expansion on our highways but have observed a reduction in serious collisions on the segments where they have been deployed.