More highway signs could be coming to a roadside near you
Posted May 19
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina State University researchers have found that allowing more restaurants, hotels and gas stations to advertise on blue informational signs near highway exits doesn't increase the safety risk to drivers.
Federal regulations limit those signs to six logos each, but the state Department of Transportation wanted to see if it could safely add more logos.
"There's a lot of companies that want to advertise that way, but you only have so much space," said David Kaber, Distinguished Professor in N.C. State's Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering. "If you had more panels, it might be more visually distracting for the driver."
Researchers have found that as much as a quarter of vehicle crashes are due to distracted driving.
Kaber designed a study with a driving simulator in which volunteers took a virtual drive, and he measured their level of distraction using signs with six logos and some with nine logos.
"Between the six- and nine-panel signs, there are no significant differences," he said.
Kaber said he thinks even more logos could be added to signs without problem. The signs aren't as distracting as texting while driving, he said, because people are using them for something specific.
"You know what the Golden Arches look like. You're going to pick it up. It's very easy to do that type of scanning," he said.
The DOT is testing nine-logo signs in parts of North Carolina to collect cost and benefit data.
Meanwhile, N.C. State is planning to study digital road signs and whether they contribute to driver distraction.