Virginia Study Shows Non-traditional Dynamic Message Sign Messages that Utilize Word Play and Rhymes Increase Cognitive Attention by Nearly 65 Percent.

Virginia drivers share their thoughts on the effectiveness of a collection of non-traditional Dynamic Message Sign messages.

Date Posted

Driver Response to Dynamic Message Sign Safety Campaign Messages

Summary Information

The development and use of non-traditional safety messages are distinctly different than messages typically displayed on highway signs. Such messages attempt to provoke an emotional response and may reference themes like popular culture, sports, or use rhymes.

This study quantified the effectiveness of non-traditional dynamic message sign messages based on driver responses. For the study, 300 drivers in Virginia were surveyed about 80 messages concerning general safe driving topics, such as driving without a seat belt, impaired and drowsy driving, aggressive driving, and distracted driving. The participants were asked about their perception of these messages to change driver behavior, to identify the intent of the message, and to recall messages they had seen. A novel neuroimaging instrument called functional near - infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) was used to quantify the differences in how non-traditional messages are received, processed, and cognitively interpreted by drivers.

This study provides empirical evidence of effectiveness for non-traditional safety messages compared to other messages, as seen below:

  • Non-traditional safety messages that include word play and rhymes increase cognitive attention by nearly 65 percent compared to the other types of non-traditional safety message themes.
  • Non-traditional safety messages about distracted driving increase cognitive response among drivers by more than 30 percent compared to the other types of non-traditional safety messages.
  • Non-traditional safety messages that include humor increase cognitive response by nearly 20 percent compared to emotionless messages.
  • The results indicate drivers perceive all types of non-traditional safety messages as effective. Messages about distracted driving and driving without a seat belt, messages meant to provoke a negative emotion, and messages using statistics are perceived to most likely change driver behavior.
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