Complex signs increase wrong way driving,
Simple signs decrease wrong way driving.
Sophisticated electronic signs increase wrong way driving, simple not-electronic signs decrease wrong way driving.
Published in Tec, Vol. 52 no 6, June 2011 , p. 269-270
Portuguese in: Sinaldetransito, 2011
Dr. Leonard Verhoef,
applied cognitive psychologist.
For designing complex things.
Not a designer.
Leonard Verhoef, theoretical and practical background. From an experimental cognitive psychologist to a designer of simple and complex daily life systems in a technical future.
With click to: CV.
How many psychological errors displays this sign?
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If you have never seen a wrong way sign entering a motor way, don‘t read this article and don‘t look at the pictures.
|Having seen these signs once, increases the chance that you might become one of the 3% of all fatal road accidents caused by wrong way driving.|
|Wrong way in the wrong way||
In the US there is a general preference for text signs. For wrong way there is a text sign. (See figure at the top). Perception of icons is faster and more accurate, especially in ill conditions (high speed, night) (error 1).
|The foreground-background luminance of this sign is low because the white characters have a light red background (error 2). Wrong way driving occurs most frequently at night time. To increase the conspicuity of the sign in the dark, the sign should be as light as possible. The characters should be as dark as possible (error 3). Readability of lower case is 10% better. The case should be the lower one (error 4). So far, some comments from psychology of perception.|
|The text can be understood as: How do they know I‘m lost? The Dutch wording ghost driving is more appropriate as it expresses the danger, the unexpectedness and the unbelieve of the reader (error 5). So does the German wording Geistlerradler (ghost cylist) on this sign. However, cyclist, in most cases, will ghost drive intentionally whereas car drivers are not aware they are ghost driving.||In addition, wrong way does not tell the driver what to do (error 6). The same applies for using Stop (See figure at the right).||
Figure 2, text only tells the half of what to do|
The text should be more explicit as on this sign, used in the Netherlands:Go back.
8% (n=40) of the readers understand that they are ghost driving.
So far, some comments from cognitive psychology.
Figure 3, text is clear: Go Back|
Source: The Netherlands
Because of the seriousness of the situation, the complexity and the little time available for the communication, one could argue that text only is not sufficient. An Austrian solution pictures a realistic situation.
Figure 4, pictorial solution for ghost driving|
Figure 5, incompatible perspective of driver and sign|
Meaning: Opening or swing bridge ahead.
Direction in the visual field of the driver: up down.
Direction on the sign horizontal; left-right or right-left.
Despite of this incompatibility, no driver will understand this sign as: You are sailing now, please give horn to ask for opening the bridge.
Conclusion: vertical and realistic consistency is not always required.
1) small head lights that probably are too small to be noticed (error 5),
2) colour difference that has no relation to direction (error 6) and
3) The interpretation of % of the readers is that there is some kind of lane problem, eg. : Let emergency services pass in between. (error 7).
0% (n=69) of the readers of the Austrian sign understands that they are ghost driving.
Sign for Let emergency services pass in between.
|In sum, the realistic triangle shaped ghost driving sign will increase confusion and even suggest that a ghost driver is on the correct way. Usually, confusion is solved by education and information. The design is not changed but the car driver has to change his intuitive interpretation of the sign. In this case education is likely to increase the number of ghost drivers. Drivers should not be familiar with the sign!||The experimental sign at the right does not include the psychological design errors mentioned above. In addition, the safety philosophy is not:
Human being, thou should learn, recall and obey the rules.The correct behaviour is not accomplished using learning, memory and exams but using
Van veiligheid met regels naar veiligheid met ontwerppsychologie. Veiliger (verkeer) met minder borden, regels, examens en slachtoffers. Meer cognitieve psychologie, list, bedrog en intimidatie voor bordjesmakers. De wet wordt geacht de burger te kennen.
Met klik naar: en psychologische veiligheidsstrategie, van veiligheid met regels naar veiligheid met ontwerppsychologie
knowledge on how human brains process language.The sign is self explanatory.
Application of the grammar for words, improves understanding of signs substantially. Evaluation and redesign of international standard traffic and safety signs. Conclusion: (traffic sign) exams and casualties (due to incomprehensible safety signs) can be reduced substantially.
Met klik naar: Improving graphic sign language using a word grammar
Seeing this sign for the first time, not having read any explanation,44% of the readers understands they are ghost driving(n=27).
From safety with rules towards safety using design psychology. Saver traffic without exams. Not more knowledge of signs but using cognitive design. Don Quichotte or inevitable? In Dutch.The safety philosophy is a psychological design strategy.
Meer, click en ga naar: Een psychologische veiligheidsstrategie, van veiligheid met regels naar veiligheid met ontwerppsychologie
Figure 6, experimental ghost driving sign
To induce better performance more legal stress or perceptual improvements might be ineffective.
emotional intimidationmight do the job, as in the figure at the right.
Een rationele, psychologisch verantwoorde aanpak met goed leesbare woorden, met duidelijke woorden en met een begrijpelijk concept kan toch niet tot het gewenste gedrag leiden. Dan kan de ontwerper overgaan op een emotie-gerichte aanpak via list, bedrog en intimidatie, bijvoorbeeld ...
Meer, click en ga naar: Psychologie van list bedrog en intimidatie
The right way to solve the problem
Placing a ghost driving sign at the entrance of a motorway seems logical to prevent ghost driving. Drivers should be corrected at the moment they make that error.
My preference would be that drivers never see the sign. Each time a right way driver sees a ghost driving sign he will think: Stupid lads, taking the wrong entrance! and continue. When the same driver is a ghost driver, he again will think: Stupid lads, taking the wrong entrance!, and continue.
|When the driver has never seen the sign before in his life, the chance increases that he will think: Stupid me, I've taken the wrong entrance!|
|In the situation of the figure at the right, the sign easily could be hidden for right way drivers by putting the signs 50 meters further.||
Figure 7, the position of a ghost driving sign|
Go back sign visible for right way drivers. Placing these signs 50 meters back in this case is possible without any extra costs. In that case right way drivers can't see the Go back sign.
Source: common practice in The Netherlands.
|When such a position is not possible Venetian blinds mounted in the right angle could do the job as is shown in the two traffic light figures at the right.||
Figure 8, Venetian blinds on green traffic light|
Only car drivers close to the traffic light see green.
Figure 9, Venetian blind at the other side of the road crossing|
The Venetian blinds prevents car drivers at the other side of the crossing seeing that the light of figure 8 is green.
|Drivers should not see the sign while driving and not even while studying road signs for their driving test. Laws for traffic rules should forbid publication of articles such as this, showing ghost driving signs.||Never having seen the ghost sign, will increase the probability of a reaction like: What the hell is going on here!|
More applied cognitive psychology for public design:
More applied cognitive psychology for design, other than public
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Leonard Verhoef, theoretical and practical background. From an experimental cognitive psychologist to a designer of simple and complex daily life systems for computer and web users, for arithmetic teachers, payers, travelers, and for those fleeing from disaster on land, rail, road, and waterways. For both: civilians and professionals. What is the future of the human super brain: a slave following rules of culture (technology, education and government) or a master of technology and his life.
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