Roadside Safety Messages Can Increase Crashes
Several U.S. states display year-to-date fatality statistics (number of deaths) on roadside dynamic message signs (DMSs). The hope is that these sobering messages will reduce traffic crashes. Contrary to policymakers’ expectations it was found that displaying fatality messages increases the number of crashes.
A comparison was made of the hourly number of crashes occurring around a DMS when fatality messages were shown, relative to crashes on the same road segment at other times. It was found that there were 2% to 3% more crashes within one to 10 kilometres downstream of each DMS during the week fatality messages were shown. It was hypothesized that these fatality messages cause more crashes because they make drivers anxious and distract them. It was concluded that displaying fatality messages does not result in safer driving and fewer crashes.
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