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Evaluating the effects of bilingual traffic signs on driver performance and safety

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Variable message signs (VMS) can provide immediate and relevant information to road users and bilingual VMS can provide great flexibility in countries where a significant proportion of the population speak an alternative language to the majority. The study reported here evaluates the effect of various bilingual VMS configurations on driver behaviour and safety. The aim of the study was to determine whether or not the visual distraction associated with bilingual VMS signs of different configurations (length, complexity) impacted on driving performance. A driving simulator was used to allow full control over the scenarios, road environment and sign configuration and both longitudinal and lateral driver performance was assessed. Drivers were able to read one- and two-line monolingual signs and two-line bilingual signs without disruption to their driving behaviour. However, drivers significantly reduced their speed in order to read four-line monolingual and four-line bilingual signs, accompanied by an increase in headway to the vehicle in front. This implies that drivers are possibly reading the irrelevant text on the bilingual sign and various methods for reducing this effect are discussed.
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Keywords: Bilingual; Driver performance; Variable message signs; Workload

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: MWH New Zealand, 123 Taranaki St, PO Box 9624, Wellington, New Zealand 2: Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

Publication date: December 15, 2005

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