A recent study looked at the impact of broadcasting crash death totals on highway message boards. The men behind this research are University of Toronto Assistant Professor Jonathan D. Hall and University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Assistant Professor Joshua Madsen. Jonathan D. Hall is well known for his article on Uber.
At least 27 US states have shown versions of these roadway fatality messages. Although more than half of the US states display these messages, they focus their research on Texas. Officials decided to broadcast these messages only once a month. The researchers analyzed accident data from before the campaign (January 2010 to July 2012) and after it began (August 2012 to December 2017) and the weekly changes within each month of the program.

Driving on a busy highway with lane changes is more mentally taxing than going down a straight stretch of empty roadway. People’s attention spans are short. When a driver’s cognitive load is high, adding an attention-grabbing, depressing reminder of highway deaths can be dangerous.

The researchers determined that the higher the number in the fatality message, the more damaging the impacts. As the death toll rose throughout the year, extra crashes increased month by month. The most crash occurred in January when the message announced the annual total. They also discovered that crashes were more common in regions with higher cognitive burdens, such as heavy traffic or driving past several message boards.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash


Compared to weeks without fatality messages, there were more accidents during the week with fatality messaging. In addition, the messages seemingly increased the mortality rate by 4.5% over the 10 km (6.21 mi) following the message. According to their findings, fatality messages cause 2,600 crashes and 16 deaths in Texas every year, costing $377 million.

Perhaps similar efforts could be recreated to reach drivers in a safer manner, such as when they are stopped at a junction so that their attention stays on the road.

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Harold Sullivan
Harold Sullivan is a 35-year-old former blogger who enjoys jigsaw puzzles, badminton and playing video games. He is creative and bright. But is addicted to coffee, something which his friend Lance Emmanuel Curtis pointed out when he was 18. The problem intensified in 2007. Harold has lost two jobs as a result of his addiction. Harold is known for is bi-annual speech on the famous IEEE Conference where he speaks about his past and future ideas.

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