It Sounds Boring, but Dynamic Iconography Could Save Lives
It’s not ground-breaking news that timing is everything when a vehicle needs to make a sudden stop. What is news is how the difference in the appearance of road signs can affect how drivers react to their warning. It might not sound like the most exciting topic, but dynamic iconography could save lives.
A new joint study conducted by researchers at BYU and the University of Michigan indicates that people react more strongly to signs that portray significant movement. The results, published in the Journal of Consumer Research
, show that drivers translate a perception of greater movement on road signs to a perception of heightened risk, therefore, snapping them to attention sooner and helping them stop more quickly.
Signs which portray figures moving at greater speeds elicit a greater sense of urgency from drivers. In a school crossing sign where the figures appear to be walking, drivers will not anticipate having to make as quick a stop as they would if the figures on the sign appear to be moving more quickly, or even sprinting out into the street. If the figures appear to be running, drivers can visualize pedestrians being in front of their car more rapidly.
An interest in how static imagery that suggests motion can influence behavior initiated the research. Lead authors of the study implemented driving simulations, click-data heat maps, reaction time tasks, eye-tracking, and surveys to deduce that signs which communicate an elevated sense of movement trigger a more rapid response from observers. Basically the
One particular experiment determined that signs with increased dynamism elicited a reaction 50 milliseconds faster from drivers using a simulator. At 60 mph, 50 milliseconds translates to 4.4 feet of distance- plenty of space to avoid an accident and make a difference in the life of a pedestrian.
Eye-tracking technology was used by the team in another experiment to gauge the length of time it takes for a motorist’s eyes to notice a road sign. These study results indicated that signs with higher dynamism caught earlier, and held longer, a driver’s attention than did static signs. When our eyes perceive motion in a sign, our brains want to continue that movement. This has significant implications on the road.
The research team’s goal is to positively impact policy changes so that accidents can be avoided and lives can be saved. In the United States every year, over 37,000 people are killed because of car accidents. An additional 2.35 million or injured or permanently disabled. Researchers hope to decrease these numbers through the implementation of more effective dynamic traffic signs.
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