New road safety signs ‘cause crashes’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Rus­sell Lynch

FRIGHT­EN­ING dig­i­tal warn­ing signs meant to pro­mote road safety cause more crashes than they pre­vent, economists have found.

Re­searchers looked at “in your face” warn­ings in Texas which dis­played mes­sages such as “1,669 deaths this year on Texas roads”.

They found that the num­ber of crashes in the 10km (six miles) af­ter the signs were up to 8pc higher dur­ing the weeks that the mes­sages were shown.

The big­ger the fa­tal­ity num­ber dis­played and more com­plex the road net­work, the more accidents there were.

The study, by the Univer­sity of Toronto’s Jonathan Hall and Justin Mad­sen of the Univer­sity of Min­nesota, sug­gests the ini­tia­tive caused an ex­tra 2,600 crashes in Texas alone.

Across the 26 states us­ing the signs, the au­thors sug­gest around 80 deaths a year and 13,000 ex­tra crashes could have been caused – at a cost to so­ci­ety of $1.9bn (£1.4bn).

Their re­search runs counter to a fo­cus on be­havioural eco­nomics in pub­lic pol­icy as a cheap way of in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple to pay tax on time, epit­o­mised by the so­called Nudge unit that David Cameron set up in 2010.

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