New road safety signs ‘cause crashes’
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.