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Study: Dynamic Road Signs Make for Better Drivers
Further validating proponents of shared space and traffic calming, "researchers from the University of Michigan and Brigham Young University found that signs that conveyed a greater degree of motion—think a running stick-figure pedestrian, not a strolling one—may raise drivers' perception of risk, which may in turn translate to more caution and attention from behind the wheel."
Cari Romm reports on this study, which exposed subjects to signs of varying dynamism and rated their responses. According to one of the study's co-authors, "From evolutionary psychology we know that humans have developed systems to maximize the chances of detecting potential predators and other dangers. Thus, our attention system has evolved to detect actual movement automatically and quickly."
An opposing theory throws doubt on signs' importance. From the article: "There are others, though, who argue that focusing on the signs themselves—whatever they may depict—are the wrong way to cut down on traffic accidents, which kill around 34,000 people in the U.S. each year, because people may feel like they can rely on the signs and, as a result, don't need to be as aware of their surroundings."