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Spot Speed Study

Engineering 1281H
Autumn, 2015

Leo Steinkerchner, Seat 12

Sam Rankin, Seat 17
Casey Schomer, Seat 7
Zarius Shroff, Seat 11
B. Rice

Thursday 8:00 AM

Date of Experiment: 09/03/15

Date of Submission: 09/24/15

1. Introduction

Any university must address the inherent issue of traffic flow. It is necessary for every
university to provide routes for students, staff, and guests that is not only both efficient and safe, but
also cost-effective. According to the Spot Speed Study Write-Up, The Ohio State University [had]
received complaints from several pedestrians walking on stretches of Woody Hayes Drive and
Olentangy River Road [concerning] the speed of traffic in these areas [2]. Therefore, the purpose of
this experiment was to use a spot speed study to measure the speed of traffic flowing through these
areas, then make a recommendation on whether or not additional safety precautions are necessary.
Section 2 of this report covers the methods used to carry out the experiment. This includes the
equipment used, the setup down prior to testing, and actual procedure of the experiment. Section 3
provides all of the data gathered during the experiment and statistical analyses and representations of it.
Section 4 discusses the significance of this data in the context of this spot speed study. Finally, Section
5 summarizes the results of the experiment and provides conclusive statements to address the problem
presented above.

2. Experimental Methodology

To measure the speed of the cars, only a stopwatch and pre-marked lines of orange paint spaced
176 ft. apart on Olentangy River Road were used. The data were then recorded on the Spot Speed
Study Field Sheet, shown in Appendix A.




Prior to the experiment, a 176 ft. interval was marked with orange paint at Location I as shown
in Figure 1 below. As indicated by the figure, the speed limit at Location I is 35 mph. As additional
precautions, all data were taken from a safe distance away from the road, all traffic laws concerning
pedestrians were obeyed, and the experiment was designed so as to not disrupt the drivers of the cars
going past.

Figure 1: Location of Spot Speed Study [2].

Also, each team member was assigned a role for the experiment, as described in Table 1 on the
following page. Once roles were assigned, the group decided on a hand signal that the Flagger could
use to indicate to the timer when a car entered the measurement range (described in Section 2.3
Experimental Processes, on next page).


Table 1: Description of roles for the Spot Speed Study [2].

Member Role



Make a tally mark on the field sheet in the row that

corresponds to the time determined by the timer.


Signal the timer when the vehicle passes the first



Start the stopwatch when he/she receives the signal

from the flagger and stop the stopwatch when the
vehicle passes the second marker.

Safety Engineer

Keep all members of the team safe and out of the



ental Processes
Upon arriving at the location, the weather and road conditions, location, time, and posted speed
limit were all documented on the field sheet. At location I, the Flagger stood at the beginning of the
speed trap (on the South side of Figure 1), while the Timer and Recorder stood at the end of the speed
trap (on the North side of Figure 1). The Safety Engineer moved between these two positions, often
staying in the middle between them.
As per the agreed-upon signal, as a car approached the speed trap, the Flagger raised one arm
straight into the air, signaling the Timer to be ready to start the stopwatch. Then, precisely when the car
front edge passed the first orange line, the Flaggers arm was brought swiftly back down to their side.
When this happened, the Timer started the stopwatch. If there was a group of cars close together, the
signal always referred to the car that was leading as it passed the Flagger. When the car passed the
second orange line, 176 ft. down the road, the Timer stopped the stopwatch. The reading on the stop
watch was told to the Recorder, then documented in the appropriate bin of the field sheet. This process
was repeated as often as possible for roughly 30 minutes.


3. Results and Description

Testing began at 8:45 AM on September 3, 2015 with sunny weather and dry road conditions. A
total of 64 cars were measured during the time interval. The speed each was travelling (shown below in
Table 2) was determined by the time it took for each to pass through the speed trap and the conversions
listed on the Spot Speed Study Field Sheet (Appendix B). Also shown is the frequency of each speed
group as a percentage of all the cars measured, as well as the cumulative percent frequency, which
represents the sum of all cars up to and including that speed group. Because the data produced a
bimodal distribution that was not representative of the situation, the size of the speed groups was
extended to span 4 mph, rather than the original 2 mile-per-hour bins.




Cumulative Percent


Table 2: Frequency of cars travelling within various speed groups.

These data were then plotted on two graphs with same x-axis; one shows the percent frequency
of cars travelling at a particular speed (a), while the other shows the cumulative percent frequency of
these same cars (b) (See Appendix B). On graph (a), where frequencies represent a single value for
speed, data was plotted according to the middle value of each speed range because this was the point
that best represented each range (e.g. the 28-32 mph range was plotted as 30 mph). Meanwhile, graph
(b) represents data up to and including each speed group, and so its values were plotted according to
the top value of each speed range (e.g. the 28-32 mph range was plotted as 32 mph).
Using these graphs, 6 significant values about the data were approximated. This information, as
well as the average speed of the cars and the calculated and estimated standard deviation is summarized
in Table 3, printed below.

Table 3: Statistical data of the measured speed frequencies.

Graphical Approximations


Data Point


Data Point



39 mph

Average Speed

40.44 mph

34.5-44.5 mph


4.00 mph

15th Percentile

37 mph


4.88 mph

85th Percentile

45 mph



50th Percentile

40 mph



Percent of
vehicles in Pace




10 mph Pace


From graph (a) the modal speed of traffic can be seen, as it was the point which corresponded
to the highest percent frequency. Also determined from graph (a) was the overall pace of the cars, i.e.
the 10 mph range at which the most cars were driving. To find this, 10 mph (as per the x-axis of the
graph) were marked on a straight edge, which was then moved down from the top of the curve to find
the point where the left and right sides of the curve were 10 mph apart. To signify pace on the graphs,
these points were marked, and vertical lines drawn through across the entire figurebecause the two
graphs use the same x-axis, the pace can be marked the same on both of them.
Using graph (b), the 15th and 85th percentiles were determined by finding the speed value that
reached 15% and 85% on the cumulative frequency curve, respectively (shown by solid lines at these
values. Similarly, the 50th percentile (which was also the median) corresponded to the speed value that
reached 50% on the curve. Finally, graph (b) was used to find the percent of cars travelling within the
pace. To find this value, we subtracted the value where the lower bound of the pace meets the
cumulative curve (9%) from the value where the upper bound of the pace meets the cumulative curve


Illustrated by Equation 1 below, the average speed was found by dividing the sum of all of the
cars speeds by the total number of cars. The standard deviation was first estimated by dividing the
difference between the 85th percentile and the 15th percentile by 2 (Equation 2 on next page), and then
calculated using the accepted standard deviation equation for a sample of a population, shown in
Equation 3 on the next page. Sample calculations for each of these equations can be found in Appendix
P85P 15
S est =


( x ix )


4. Discussion
Central tendency is the tendency of samples of a given measurement to cluster around some
central value [3]. By observing the percent frequency curve, it can be noted that the data was clustered
around the modal value of 39 miles per hour. By definition, this meant the data exhibited central
tendency [3]. Meanwhile, the dispersion around this central point was fairly small. This was because
the standard deviation of 4.88 mph was only 20% of the entire range (24 mph). If there standard
deviation were higher, it would suggest the data were further spread out from the mean, and therefore
that the dispersion was higher. The low dispersion was further evidenced by the fact that the percent of
vehicles in the pace was 73%, i.e. the majority of the cars were travelling around the same speed.
These data, focused around 39 mph, suggested that the general flow of traffic exceeded the
posted speed limit of 35 mph. However, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety Motor
Vehicle Laws, in 35 mph zones, travelling at less than 5 mph over the speed limit is considered a

minor speed infraction [4]. Therefore, with 40 mph being both 5 mph over the speed limit and the
median of the data, 50% of measured drivers were either obeying the posted speed limit or only
committing a minor speed infraction. It follows that 50% of measured drivers were committing a major
speed infraction. This data agreed with studies done by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, which found that 40% of drivers admitted to sometimes speeding, while 30% of drivers
admitted to regularly speeding [5].
The measured data referred specifically to traffic flow at this particular location, at this
particular time of day and day of the week, and at this time of year. If any of these factors were
changed, the results could be affected. For example, a study done in the middle of the night, when there
are many fewer cars on the road, might find that cars travel much faster than measured here. Or, a study
done at midday on an autumn Saturday in Columbus could find that cars move well below the speed
limit due to the sheer number of cars on the road. Meanwhile, there were several sources of error
inherent in our experimental design. For instance, the use of the Flagger-to-Timer hand signals caused a
delay in timing due to response time that systematically lowered all values for time, increasing all
values for speed. Also, due to the close proximity of the cars (and an inability to time more than one car
at a time) it was impossible to record the speed of every single car. This created random variance in our
data, potentially skewing it in one direction or another, or changing the dispersion, as some of the cars
that went past without being measured were travelling at any of the various speeds represented.

5. Summary and Conclusions

The experiment aimed to measure the follow of traffic on a particular section of Olentangy
River Road, then recommend whether or not the area needed more safety precautions. It found that
drivers on Olentangy River Road around 8:30 AM on a sunny and dry weekday tend to drive from

about 34.4 mph to 44.4 mph where the speed limit is 35 mph. More drivers travelled at 39 mph than
any other speed, though the average speed of all of the cars was 40.44 mph. Furthermore, roughly half
of the measured drivers in these conditions drive significantly faster than the posted speed limit. In
finding these results, the experiment succeeded in measuring the speed of traffic flow in this area.
Given the data, the complaints from pedestrians seem justifiedmany drivers are, in fact, driving well
above the speed limit.
If the experiment were repeated, it could be improved in several ways to increase the overall
accuracy of the data. In order to outweigh the effects of reaction time on the Timers actions, the length
of the speed trap should be increased. Using a larger distance would create larger values for time,
which would then be less susceptible to error due to reaction time, but doing so increases the chance
that cars might change speed within this range. In order to measure more of the cars going past, the
experiment could be done with two Flagger-Timer pairs, perhaps measuring the speed of cars in
different lanes, or simply measuring the first and second cars within every cluster of cars going past,
rather than just the first. Doing so would increase the accuracy of the results by excluding fewer data
points. Also, while it is impossible to remove human error from this experiment, if the experiment were
performed for a longer period of time (e.g. if cars were measured for 60 minutes or more rather than
just 30 minutes) and therefore if a larger number of data points was obtained, the random errors would
become less significant, increasing the experiments accuracy.
If the university provided $300 in funding, it is recommended that that money be spent on radar
guns (an individual radar gun suitable for this experiment can cost around $95, therefore 3 radar guns
could be purchased) [6]. These radar guns could entirely eliminate the need for a separate Flagger and
Timer, thereby reducing the possibility for human error significantly. They would also increase the
possibility of measuring more of the cars within a given time frame as we would no longer be restricted
to measuring only the first car within a group of cars. Moving forward, it is recommended that a study

be done to determine what safety precautions would be most effective and cost-efficient at protecting
pedestrians in this area.



Spot Speed Study Field Sheet. 2015, September 8. www.carmen.osu.edu.


Spot Speed Study Write-Up. 2015, September 8. www.carmen.osu.edu.


Dictionary.com. 2015, September 8. www.dictionary.reference.com.


Digest of Ohio: Motor Vehicle Laws. 2015, September 8.



National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior. 2015, September 8.



RadarGuns.com. 2015, September 8. http://www.radarguns.com/bushnell-velocity-speed-sportsradar-gun.html.

Spot Speed Study Field Sheet

Figure A1: Field Sheet for the Spot Speed Study documents the frequency of vehicles moving at particular speeds as well
as conditions of the road being sampled [1].


Spot Speed Study Frequency Distribution Curves


Figure B2: Percent Frequency and Cumulative Percent Frequency graphs for the Spot Speed Study show the relative
frequency of vehicles moving at particular speeds.


Sample Calculations


Sample calculation for Equation 1:


(ns) ( 335 )+ (240 )+(145) 230


Sample calculation for Equation 2:

S est =

P85P 15 45 mph37 mph 8 mph

=4 mph

Sample calculation for Equation 3:






( x i x )2

1+1+0+ 4+ 9




Frequency of a particular speed range

Medan speed of a particular speed range (mph)

Total number of cars measured


Xth Percentile (mph)

Standard Deviation (mph)

S est

Estimated Standard Deviation (mph)


Measured data point (mph)

Mean speed value (mph)