Displaying the freeway loss of life toll on message boards is a standard consciousness marketing campaign, however new analysis from the College of Toronto and College of Minnesota reveals this tactic really results in extra crashes.
A brand new examine in Science by College of Toronto Assistant Professor Jonathan D. Corridor and U of M Carlson Faculty of Administration Assistant Professor Joshua Madsen evaluated the impact of displaying crash loss of life totals on freeway message boards (eg, “1669 deaths this yr on Texas roads”). Variations of freeway fatality messages have been displayed in at the least 27 US states.
Their examine focuses on Texas, the place officers selected to show these messages just one week every month. The researchers in contrast crash information from earlier than the marketing campaign (Jan. 2010 — July 2012) to after it began (Aug. 2012 — Dec. 2017) in addition to examined the weekly variations inside every month in the course of the marketing campaign. They discovered:
- There have been extra crashes in the course of the week with fatality messaging in comparison with weeks with out.
- Displaying a fatality message elevated the variety of crashes over the 10 km (6.21 mi) following the message boards by 4.5%. This enhance is corresponding to elevating the pace restrict 3-5 mph or lowering freeway troopers by 6-14%, in keeping with earlier analysis.
- Their findings recommend fatality messages trigger a further 2,600 crashes and 16 deaths per yr in Texas, costing $377 million every year.
- The researchers recommend this “in-your-face” messaging strategy weighs down drivers’ “cognitive masses,” briefly impacting their means to reply to modifications in visitors circumstances.
“Driving on a busy freeway [and] having to navigate lane modifications is extra cognitively demanding than driving down a straight stretch of empty freeway,” stated Madsen. “Individuals have restricted consideration. When a driver’s cognitive load is already maxed out, including on an attention-grabbing, sobering reminder of freeway deaths [can] turn into a harmful distraction.”
The researchers discovered the larger the quantity within the fatality message, the extra dangerous the consequences. The variety of extra crashes every month elevated because the loss of life toll rose all year long, with essentially the most extra crashes occurring in January when the message said the annual complete. Additionally they discovered that crashes elevated in areas the place drivers skilled larger cognitive masses, akin to heavy visitors or driving previous a number of message boards.
“The messages additionally elevated the variety of multi-vehicle crashes, however not single-vehicle crashes,” stated Corridor. “That is in keeping with drivers with elevated cognitive masses making smaller errors on account of distraction, like drifting out of a lane, reasonably than driving off the highway.”
Nevertheless, the researchers discovered there was a discount in crashes when the displayed loss of life tolls had been low and when the message appeared the place the highways had been much less complicated. Madsen says this means that at occasions the messaging was not as taxing on drivers’ consideration.
Whereas using freeway fatality messaging varies by state, Madsen says businesses ought to take into account alternative routes to lift consciousness.
“Distracted driving is harmful driving,” stated Madsen. “Maybe these campaigns might be reimagined to achieve drivers in a safer manner, akin to when they’re stopped at an intersection, in order that their consideration whereas driving stays centered on the roads.”
This analysis was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Analysis Council of Canada and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 analysis and innovation programme.