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Traffic safety signs: Are they actually helpful?

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When you see a safety sign, you probably think that it’s helpful. It’s informative and lets you know if a road will be wavy or difficult to maneuver on. It tells you if deer might be crossing nearby or if there are children who typically pass through this area.

On the whole, safety signs are important, but yet they could be hazardous to your health. In fact, a study that was recently published in Science found that some safety warning signs actually increase the risk of fatalities on the roads.

Why are safety signs dangerous?

In the study, the researchers found that, though it’s counterintuitive, safety signs were sometimes distracting to drivers. This was particularly the case in areas where the roads were complex rather than long, straight or easy-to-maneuver stretches.

What the study indicates is that it’s vital that all safety signs are designed with distractions in mind. They need to be positioned in such a way that they are informative to drivers without being distracting as they try to maneuver through a particularly difficult stretch of the roadway.

The statistics show that roadside signs can increase crashes

The study, which took place across several years, found that signs placed as a part of roadside safety campaigns in Texas increased the number of accidents on a certain stretch of the road when they were displayed each year. The weeks when the signs were displayed led to an increase in car crashes at a rate of around 4.5%. In total, the state saw 2,600 more crashes and another 16 deaths annually because of the signs being placed on just 6.2 miles of the road.

Why did these signs lead to crashes? Cognition overload. With the addition of the signs having attention-grabbing designs, the distractions they caused were hazardous to drivers.

Distractions on the roads are dangerous in any form. Safety campaigns have to think carefully about how to deliver their messaging without increasing the risk to drivers, whether they’re in Texas, Illinois or another state. If you’re hit because someone is distracted by these signs, then you may be able to look into making a claim against the driver who was distracted as well as the campaign that drew their attention.