Those Lighted Road Signs Reminding Drivers To Be Safe May Backfire
We've all seen those Texas lighted highway signs by the side of the road. Sometimes, they remind you of an accident ahead or construction. In the last year or so, a lot of the signs keep a running count of how many deaths from crashes have occurred this year in Texas. Every day, driving by those signs reminds drivers that more people have perished on Texas roads. In fact, the last day that went by without a fatality on any Texas road was in November 2000. That's almost 22 years.
So while many debate whether those signs that count the number of Texas highway fatalities are a good idea or not, finally, we have a scientific study that shows whether or not the signs actually achieve their goal. Do these signs, which is to remind Texans to drive safely to avoid becoming another number on a sign actually promote highway safety.
The answer is "no".
Research from the National Highway Safety Administration show that the signs actually increase accidents. Researchers found that drivers who saw the sign were 4.5% more likely to get into an accident over the next 6.2 miles than drivers who did not encounter the information.
In fact, the likelihood of an accident increased the higher the numbers reach on the sign. Further, the study concluded that the signs may have contributed to an additional 2,600 Texas crashes, 16 deaths and nearly 400-million dollars in property damage.
Ultimately, the signs had the same impact on collision rates that one would expect from signs raising the speed limit by 5 miles an hour.
This throws into question whether or not the lighted signs should be on highways at all. New studies will have to be conducted on the effects of informative or even funny roadside lighted signs. Not only does the research indicate the signs may be distracting, there are numerous examples of the signs being hacked with obscene or erroneous information.
So the jury is out. Do we really need these signs? Perhaps more research and more time will tell. In the meantime, perhaps someone needs to do a study on whether there are more speeding tickets in the miles after drivers see a "Buc-ees Next Exit Sign" It's something many Texans find hard to resist.