Are Electronic Traffic Messages Safe For Drivers?

When driving around Chicagoland area and most of the state of Illinois, drivers see electronic signs on highways. These messages range from reminders to buckle up, warn of upcoming construction and even list the number of traffic deaths in the state that year. These messages are called electronic dynamic message signs (“DMSs”).

These messages are obviously posted to help keep drivers on alert and hopefully keep them safe. Two researches recently published a paper after studying these sign for the Texas Department of Transportation. The study looked at the effectiveness of these signs and whether they actually improve safety for drivers in the immediate area of the signes.

The study compared crashes downstream of DMSs across the state during periods when traffic safety messages with fatality numbers were being displayed versus not being displayed. To control for other possible factors influencing their results, they also compared crashes on those same roadway segments before the fatality message campaign began and on roadway segments upstream of the DMSs. They concluded that the display of traffic safety messages with fatality numbers resulted in a 1.35% increase in traffic crashes up to 10 km downstream of the DMSs.

The researchers concluded that messages with fatality numbers are overly salient to drivers. In other words, the messaging on deaths can cloud a drivers brain with too much worry and ulitimately distract them. Another hypothesis of the study was that the design of the signs can cause information overload, and again distract a driver.

The study did not assess other factors such as crash type or other causal factors. I believe additional analysis is needed to ensure these numbers aren’t just a coincidence. There is additional informatin we need to know such as were there weather factors or were the drivers on their phones? Or were they struck by an impaired or distracted driver that was coming in the opposite direction? This information would give us a clearer answer as to wether the DMSs were actually causing the roads to be more dangerous or whehter these numbers are just an aberration.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, please call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

NHTSA: 2020 Saw Increase Hit And Run Traffic Fatalities

The National HighwaysTraffic Safety Association (“NHTSA”) released its’ data last month on 2020 traffic deaths. US roads saw the largest increase on record in deaths per mile traveled in 2020, including a 26% increase in hit-and-run fatalities that outpaced the increase in overall deaths.

Hit-and-run deaths have grown steadily in the last 15 years as a share of traffic deaths. Victims of hit-and-runs are also increasingly pedestrians and cyclists. In 2020, 69.6% of hit-and-run deaths were either pedestrians or cyclists, compared with 61.1% in 2006. Roughly one in four pedestrian deaths in 2020 was a hit-and-run.

Early analysis shows that pedestrian deaths did not decline in 2021, indicating that 2020 wasn’t a fluke. Overall traffic deaths per mile in the first nine months of 2021 increased marginally from 2020.

The NHTSA and other traffic experts could not provide the reasoning behind the gradual increase, but there were some suggestions as to the problem. Some believe that the decline in public transportation ridership in 2020 could have led to the increase in pedestrian deaths and hit and runs. Others have pointed out that alcohol and impaired driving fatalities grew 14% in 2020, outpacing the 7.2% increase in overall traffic deaths when compared with 2019.

What is the plan going forward and what can the government do to help curb the increase in pedestrian traffic deaths? The NHTSA plans to propose changes to the new car assessment program that may emphasize safety features that protect people both inside and outside vehicles. In 2020, 34% of traffic deaths occurred outside vehicles, a rate that’s increased steadily since hitting a low of 20% in 1997. The agency has also said it’ll develop rules for requiring automatic emergency braking for pedestrians on new passenger vehicles, but not heavy trucks.

The Department of Transportation plans to feature a “safe system” approach, which emphasizes the responsibility of all actors in a system, including roadway engineers. US road design has long prioritized moving vehicles at high speeds rather than protecting all road users.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in Chicago pedestrian accident or a Chicago truck accident, then call the Chicago personal injury lawyers at the Bryant Law Group, LLC. for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.