Enhancing Motorist Understanding of Variable Message Signs

This report presents a study that assessed drivers' responses to and comprehension of variable message sign (VMS) messages displayed in different ways with the intent to help enhance message display on VMSs. Firstly, a review of literatures and current practices regarding the design and display of VMS messages is presented. Secondly, the study incorporates three approaches in the assessment. Questionnaire surveys were designed to investigate the preferences of highway drivers in regards to six message display settings, they were: number of message frames, flashing effect, color, color combinations, wording, and use of abbreviations. Lab experiments were developed to assess drivers' responses to a variety of VMS messages in a simulated driving environment. Two groups of factors, within-subject and between-subject factors, were considered in the design of experiment. Within-subject factors included message flashing and color combination. Between-subject factors were age and gender. To help validate results found from lab experiments, field studies were set up to study drivers' response to VMS in real driving environment. Thirty-six subjects, from three age populations (20-40, 40-60, above 60 yrs old) with balanced genders, were recruited to participate in both questionnaire surveys and lab experiments while eighteen of them participated in field studies on a voluntarily basis. The study findings suggest a specific set of VMS features that might help traffic engineers and highway management design VMS signs that could be noticed, understood and responded to in a more timely fashion. Safer and more proactive driving experiences could be achieved by adopting these suggested VMS features.

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    University of Rhode Island, Kingston

    Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
    Kingston, RI  United States  02881

    Rhode Island Department of Transportation

    State Office Building, 2 Capitol Hill
    Providence, RI  United States  02903

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Wang, Jyh-Hone
    • Collyer, Charles E
    • Yang, Chun-Ming
  • Publication Date: 2005-9


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 65p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01044290
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: FHWA-RIDOT-RTD-06-1
  • Contract Numbers: SPR-228-2273
  • Created Date: Mar 6 2007 9:14PM