A recent research report conducted by Morgan State University of Baltimore, MD, shed light on the traveling public’s perception of and response to Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) along America’s roadways. The intended purposes of the displays are to convey safety messages, transportation messages, homeland security messages and AMBERTM alerts. With financial support from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration, a driving simulation exercise was set up to measure drivers’ responses to DMS in various situations. The study’s participants varied in age, socioeconomic status and gender for a balanced response. The initial step of the survey instructed subjects to fill out a paper questionnaire indicating their natural inclinations when certain circumstances arose. Drivers were then positioned in the simulator and presented with a similar situation in a route familiar to their region. Their simulator responses were measured against their responses on paper, deriving projected response versus actual response. Some fast highlights of the findings include:

  • A combination of past experiences and DMS-provided information determined driver route choices
  • 99% of participants are familiar with DMS
  • 60% of them always read DMS messages
  • 39% believe a DMS is potentially helpful
  • 58% believe a DMS is absolutely helpful

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Another interesting finding was Travel Time information was more likely to be read than congestion information. (Travel Time is new software feature of our DMS. You can click here to find out more about the process A to Z, from gathering data to putting it up on the sign.) Furthermore, drivers were shown to be more sensitive to Travel Time changes in regards to influencers of alternate route choices.

Drivers also showed heightened attention to graphic-aided text, especially for seniors and non-native English speakers. Response times were significantly faster and an increased number of subjects made more accurate driving decisions based on the information shown. With the advent of 20mm high resolution, full-color imaging capabilities, DMS are able to clearly replicate MUTCD symbols which quickly convey a message with little to no text. By creating an instantaneous cognitive response, the images remove second-guessing, instilling confidence in travelers. Click here to see an example of MUTCD imagery.

Overall, DMS were found to be a safe, effective method to convey critical information to the traveling public. If you’d like to read more about the findings in this study, please click here.

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