If painting roads saves lives, how about putting up billboards? Turns out that could be counterproductive.

Why is it important: There is a general tendency to believe that “conscience” is always and everywhere a good thing. But this is not an empirical finding. Sometimes such awareness can backfire.

Driving the news: New York City announcement this week, he would spend $4 million on a campaign to tackle dangerous driving behavior like speeding. At the center of the campaign are billboards like the one pictured above, showing a horrific traffic accident.

  • The catch: Such visuals can end up causing even more distraction.

The big picture: A recent study Traffic signs in Texas found that interventions that “grab people’s attention” (the study looked at signs showing the number of recent deaths on local roads) may end up causing more deaths.

  • What they found: “Facing”, “sobering”, and negatively framed messages attract too much attention (i.e. they are too prominent), interfering with drivers’ ability to react to changing driving conditions. traffic.
  • By the numbers: The weeks the signs were posted saw a 4.5% increase in the number of crashes within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) after seeing a sign. This equates to 16 additional deaths per year in Texas alone.

The bottom line: Driving slowly and safely is a habit, not something people should consciously think about. A shocking sign is more likely to end up distracting drivers than causing a lasting change in behavior.


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