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Why some electronic road signs can do more harm than good

On Behalf of | May 23, 2022 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

If you drive the freeways and even some streets in and around Los Angeles regularly, you see electronic signage with a variety of messages. They can have anything from public health information to Amber Alerts to reminders not to drink and drive.

Most of these signs, which are used more and more because they can be programmed to change their message quickly as needed, provide safety information. They may warn of a slowdown, closed lane or road work ahead or caution that speed is being monitored by law enforcement.

Adding to cognitive overload

Some safety experts have warned that these signs, which tend to catch the eye more than traditional road signs do, can actually put drivers into cognitive overload and increase the accidents they’re often trying to prevent.

In fact, one recent study that was conducted in another state to show the positive effect of an electronic warning sign that informed drivers of death tolls from crashes found just the opposite effect. The number of crashes in the miles of road directly after the sign rose by 4.5%.

How can these signs be made safer?

Since these signs are used in over half of the states, Californians traveling on vacation this summer are likely to see a lot more. So with so much money already invested in these signs, how can they fulfill their goal of providing valuable warnings and safety information without adding to the distractions already faced by drivers both inside and outside their vehicles?

The researchers behind this report suggested placing them at on-ramps rather than along and above the roads themselves. They also recommended not using them to provide statistical information like death tolls that don’t give drivers any actionable information and merely cause them to reflect or have a discussion with their passengers rather than focus on their driving and the road ahead.

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a crash and seeking the compensation you need for medical bills and other expenses and damages, you’re likely being extremely vigilant about your driving – even if the crash wasn’t your fault. Our eyes are naturally drawn to electronic road signs because our brain tells us it’s information we need to have. If these signs can be limited to information that’s important for drivers in the area to have, they can indeed do more good than harm.


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