Public Assessment Of Wildlife Warning Signs
Road signs are the most common and affordable method of reducing wildlife-auto collisions, but input from drivers is often not sought during the design process, and studies on their effectiveness produce widely variable results between countries. This Australian study conducted an online survey of 134 drivers. They were shown a set of wildlife warning signs and asked to rate how likely they were to respond to each. In addition, they were asked what they perceived the primary message of the sign to be.
The authors tested for the most effective design elements, message content, and sign placement. Design elements included flashing lights, activation by car or animal, positive vs. negative images (springing kangaroo vs. damaged car), and feedback devices such as “your speed.” Message elements included focus on animal injury, focus on car damage, focus on especially high risk locations or times, and positive reinforcement (e.g., speed-activated sign flashes “thank you” when speed is reduced). Sign placement included the roadside or the road median. Participants indicated they would be most likely to respond to animal-activated and speed-activated signs.
Due to limitations of funding and schedule, the diversity of study respondents was limited, especially by gender (70% of respondents were female) and by region. All respondents had full color vision. With one exception, only kangaroo (large animal) images were used. Actual response to installed signs was not tested. The authors call for additional research to address these and other limitations so that road signs may be used more intelligently to reduce the adverse effects to wildlife and to humans of vehicle-wildlife collisions.[Abstract excerpted from original source.]
“Wildlife warning signs are the most commonly used and widespread form of road impact mitigation, aimed at reducing the incidence of wildlife–vehicle collisions. Evidence of the effectiveness of currently used signs is rare and often indicates minimal change in driver behaviour. Improving the design of these signs to increase the likelihood of appropriate driver response has the potential to reduce the incidence of wildlife–vehicle collisions. This study aimed to examine and assess the opinions of drivers on wildlife warning sign designs through a public opinion survey. Three currently used sign designs and five alternative sign designs were compared in the survey. A total of 134 drivers were surveyed. The presence of temporal specifications and an updated count of road-killed animals on wildlife warning signs were assessed, as well as the position of the sign. Drivers’ responses to the eight signs were scaled separately at three speed limits and participants indicated the sign to which they were most likely to respond. Three signs consistently ranked high. The messages conveyed by these signs and their prominent features were explored. Animal-activated and vehicle speed-activated signs were ranked very highly by participants. Extensive field trials of various sign designs are needed to further this research into optimizing wildlife warning sign designs.”