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Desai, M.; Chowdhury, A. Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design. Encyclopedia. Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56138 (accessed on 21 April 2024).
Desai M, Chowdhury A. Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design. Encyclopedia. Available at: https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56138. Accessed April 21, 2024.
Desai, Manohar, Anirban Chowdhury. "Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design" Encyclopedia, https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56138 (accessed April 21, 2024).
Desai, M., & Chowdhury, A. (2024, March 12). Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/56138
Desai, Manohar and Anirban Chowdhury. "Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design." Encyclopedia. Web. 12 March, 2024.
Eye-Tracking Analysis of Proposed Signage Design
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The road transport system is expanding considerably in developing countries. Villages are connecting to major cities for business, education, health, and many other reasons because of road development and smooth transportation. There has been a rise in the number of road accidents observed, caused by abruptly appearing dividers on roads and a lack of required signage systems.

accident attention eye tracking design

1. Introduction

Road accidents are on the rise in India for a variety of reasons. Numerous accidents are primarily the result of a disregard for traffic regulations. However, at the same time, several accidents have been reported to have solely resulted from the absence of essential traffic signs and their positions. Traffic management must manage a variety of scenarios on the highways for directing vehicles since the number of roads is significantly increasing. The country’s whole road network has undergone significant expansion, while essential signage systems have not been put in place in accordance with the requirements for vehicles. A professional team must be appointed in order to conduct necessary research and prepare a list of sensitive locations (accident prone zones) and the relevant signage required along the roads. This team must then present their report to the relevant office in order to have specific signage installed at each location.
Some roads are marked using barrier walls, some with cement blocks, and others with painted white stripes on the surface for guiding vehicles—from a solely administrative viewpoint and one of preventing traffic jams and accidents. In the same way as the respective sign is erected at a designated distance before the occurrence of a speed breaker, a warning sign alerting a vehicle driver in advance of an approaching lane divider is essential to help prevent accidents. The visual style of the road signs currently used in India was researched with respect to factors such as shape, color, form, and their recognition by the driver. Following a thorough analysis, a new sign might be designed and proposed to warn drivers about upcoming road divider objects up ahead. The suggested sign was tested using a sample-based eye-tracking testing method.
Several incidents of vehicle accidents caused by the abrupt appearance of divider objects have gained public attention not only in print and television media, but also on social media. The present authors personally visited such accident sites to document the incidents through photographs taken on a mobile device with a camera. The key reason observed for these disasters was the absence of signs alerting drivers of barriers up ahead. Sometimes, because of their excessive speed, automobiles hit such abruptly appearing dividers with extremely high impact. Such abruptly appearing dividers are not apparent in the dark because of the strong high-beam headlights of vehicles in the opposite lane. Sometimes, a lack of street illumination also contributes to compromising the visibility of such divider objects. In the rainy season, the lights of cars from the opposite lane of the road are appearing on the road and into the eyes of drivers, and this added visual disturbance compounds the existing lack of visibility of dividers, making them undetectable to drivers and causing vehicles to collide with such objects.

2. Road Accidents and Signage System

It has been observed that, unfortunately, despite incredible health advancements, RTIs are now among the top 10 fatalities worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), RTIs are to blame for 20% of the worldwide daily deaths attributable to injury. RTIs will rise to the third-most significant global cause of daily deaths by 2020 from their current ranking of ninth [1]. It was found that the costs of road accidents represent 3% of the GDP. The number of fatal accidents increased steadily between 2000 and 2018, rising from 1.15 million to 1.35 million. Around the world, traffic accidents are a serious problem. One of the main causes of road accidents is irresponsible driving, which is innately influenced by infrastructure and traffic conditions, among other things [2]. A study conducted by scholars, specifically for Pune city, stated that for better traffic management, installing suitable signs in accordance with IRC 67-2012 would be a good solution. The presence of lane management is a key element in controlling traffic in any city, and Pune’s lack of an adequate lane management system is a key factor contributing to traffic congestion [3].
It was observed that when dealing with countries like India, the signage system for public spaces must address both the issues of multilingualism and illiteracy. A widely accepted solution is to incorporate graphic symbols in the signs. The visual symbols are created to be straightforward and useful for visual communication. A designer must use his or her judgment when choosing the language (text), an appropriate graphic symbol, the background and foreground color scheme, proportioning, size, and placement of the signage to make it serve its purpose for all—literate, illiterate, persons with physical disabilities, and populations of the local region and other regions who may have temporarily migrated [4]. From a study, it can be said that signs are more likely to be understood by drivers from various cultural backgrounds if they adhere to global ergonomic design standards. To improve comprehension, particularly for drivers who have never seen a particular sign before, sign design should be influenced by accepted ergonomics concepts [5]. It is observed that road user safety, driving effectiveness, and overall traffic flow are all impacted by drivers’ capacity to pay attention to both traffic direction and regulation signs while operating a vehicle. When developing traffic regulation and road direction signs, several variables must be considered (such as color, writing size, light reflection, and contrast), but the most important one is whether drivers will understand and use the information. The capacity of humans to process information quickly is limited. The short-term memory capacity of the driver will rapidly become overloaded by the amount of information on traffic signs, leading to omissions [6].
Traffic sign identification is a difficult example where the algorithms must deal with real-time limitations, high accuracy requirements, and naturally complex and dynamic situations. Therefore, a variety of methodologies for the detection and recognition of traffic signs have been proposed due to their great industrial relevance [7].
Road signs are made to be visible and understandable to human drivers using color, shape, iconography, and text according to well-defined design principles. A subset of traffic signs that are extremely similar to one another is created when signs with the same general meaning, like the numerous speed limits, share a shared general appearance [8]. Work is carried out regarding human behavior to make sure that information design and orientation are mostly seen subliminally, providing consumers a sense of assurance that they are moving in the right path [9]. Instead of relying on algorithms, designers must have a thorough understanding of how to use color to create efficient wayfinding solutions [10]. The pictogram should always have a clear area around it to separate it from surrounding items [11][12]. Given that it deals with shape, size, colors, and lettering styles, the word “design” should refer to the entire sign. Some shapes may be eliminated depending on how much copy needs to be on a sign [13]. If an icon has many small features or is elaborate, it is considered complex; if it has few elements or few details, it is considered simple. Evidently, meaning refers to how significant individuals consider icons to be. The degree of similarity between what is portrayed on an icon and what it is meant to represent is known as semantic distance. It is found that because traffic signs are not standardized globally, their ability to be guessed at by potential users is crucial [14].
It is advised that for visual alert signals, light displays are required at intersections to mark the locations of signboards showing speed limits and other traffic regulations, such as pedestrian safety. Different speed modifications are needed for different types of roads and locations. Therefore, using signboards placed at regular road intervals, riders should be made aware of the steps by making sure they are plainly visible [15]. The criteria and guidelines for a systematic and effective signage say that it must draw attention or be obvious, be readable from a distance that is acceptable, frequently be readable when just briefly observed, and be readable in poor lighting. When alternative perspectives could have poor legibility distance, side views of some symbols, like cars, are appropriate. Depending on the message and sign layout, several perspectives are required, but when a choice is available, side views are the best [16]. It is observed that to ensure proper visibility, road signs should be positioned such that they are visible to all road users. The road sign should be positioned correctly in relation to the area, object, or circumstance to which it pertains in order to help express the intended meaning. The road sign’s placement and legibility should be such that it gives drivers enough time to react [17].
The installation of traffic signs and road markings is crucial for preventing traffic conflicts, accidents, and serious injuries by providing drivers and other road users with key information such as warnings, instructions, and directions. Therefore, for successful communication with drivers and pedestrians utilizing the road, traffic signs and markings should be clear, precise, and simple to interpret [18]. Application areas for traffic sign recognition include autonomous driving, urban scene awareness, driver aid and safety, and even sign monitoring for maintenance. Given that signs are distinctive, stiff, and created to be easily seen by vehicles, with limited variation in appearance, it is a reasonably confined task [19].
A study showed that many factors, including the types of information on traffic signs, their information volume and comprehensibility, the behavioral characteristics of drivers, the geometric features of roadways, and weather and visibility conditions, have a significant impact on the effectiveness and performance of traffic guide signs at intersections [20]. In a study involving safety signs, it was discovered that people could more accurately predict the meaning of signs when they were well known, concrete, clear, and significant, as well as when the signs were connected to the underlying ideas [21].

3. Traffic Signs and Accident Possibilities

The roads are divided into various lanes to maintain some discipline on roadways for the smooth functioning of vehicles. To understand the proposed signage system, various road maps and accident possibilities are described and discussed here. The road is divided into two lanes—the left lane and right lane (please see Figure 1). The left or right lane is then separated into multiple lanes to channelize the lanes for various requirements and maintain a systematic approach to traffic.
Figure 1. Road lanes, footpaths, street lights, and divider as infrastructure to understand the road and possibilities on Indian roadways.
Possibility 1: The road is divided into two parts—left lane and right lane. On main roads, these roadways are further divided into fast or slow lanes by painting white strips directly onto the road. On some roads, there is a provision for dual carriage way dividers that divide the road into two parts. They have available signage for the same. However, it has been observed that this division on some roads is achieved with a white painted strip. In places where the road is narrow, or there is a bridge, the navigable roadway is divided by separators into separate lanes to avoid vehicular congestion. These fixed objects placed immediately after the white painted strip on the road become a major cause for vehicular accidents due to low visibility of these structures, especially after the painted white strips.
Possibility 2: On some roads, an over- or under bridge is installed to avoid haphazard pedestrian crossing, save time, and structure traffic on cross roads and signals. The fixed object or barricade that separates the bridge from the main lane becomes an obstruction to the steady flow of traffic, due to lack of visibility (refer to Figure 2).
Figure 2. Actual image from the location, how an accident takes place on a divider.
Possibility 3: For smooth functioning of local transport systems such as buses and ambulances, there is a separate lane on some roads. In the state of Maharashtra, in India, such lanes are called BRT lanes (Public Transport Buses Lane). To create a demarcation of these special lanes from the free flow lanes, barricades or walls are constructed. The main purpose of these lanes is to ensure smooth functioning of BRT buses, regulate traffic, and ensure fast and smooth public services.
Possibility 4: Separate lanes are constructed on some roads to connect villages or to avoid local traffic on fast-flowing main roads. These lanes are called service roads.
For the aforementioned conditions, dividers have been installed to further channelize the flow of traffic and help navigate the roadways in a systematic manner. Unfortunately, these separators have become a major cause for roadside accidents. This can mainly be attributed to the ignorance of installing “Divider Ahead” signage to alert incoming traffic of such installations. To alert the users, a separate visual signage system is thus required.
The proposed signage system is developed by referring to the current signage system visual language. The Traffic Signage System document published by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, is studied to further understand the specifications and technical aspects of roadway signage systems in India. Some samples from the same are documented (refer to Figure 3).
Figure 3. Sign samples with shape, color, and technical specification.
The system feels that the installation of temporary signs on the very front of the divider completes their responsibility of alerting vehicles to the obstructions, as mentioned above in possibilities 1, 2, and 3. One lane continues on the ground level and the other lane continues as a flyover bridge. This particular observation was made at an actual location and inspired deep study and analysis of the cause of divider-related accidents; please refer to Figure 2.
There are many instructions and guidelines available from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, regarding the road and its related construction and maintenance guidelines. The study was conducted so as to maintain the same visual language for the new proposed signs to alert vehicles to sudden dividers or obstructions on the road.

Installation of Signs on Roadways

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways [22], Government of India, make available the guidelines for signage installation and also publish annual reports. These are available on their website. Please find below one of the samples, prescribed for signage sizes for local agencies or concerned departments while installing/preparing the signs on the road. The same book lists all necessary specifications to the visual guide of the signs. Some visual signs are listed below to highlight the particular shapes of the board, colors, sizes, and technical specifications as mentioned by the Ministry; please refer to Figure 3.
These signs are selected directly from the document to study the arrow size specifications, color palette, technical aspects of grid and layout of the sign, etc. Viewing distance specifications ensure that optimum distance is maintained for the user to view the sign, perceive the information, and subsequently follow the instruction specified. The graphic aspect in all signs is optimized and simplified for the user to quickly grasp the information. The red colored borders bring attention to the sign. The white background with the red and black elements maintains sufficient contrast to ensure ease of viewing from a distance. The sign installation departments from respective states follow all these guidelines to support similarity and consistency in all signs throughout the country. With careful research carried out on the existing signage system, the new signs proposed are designed while keeping in mind the preservation of consistency in the prevailing visual language.

4. Divider between the Roads for Separating Lanes

The road is mainly divided into two parts (refer to Figure 1). In some cases, there are one-way roads that are further divided into sub-lanes. Roadways are also divided for left- or right-side villages through connectivity lanes. Such lanes are mainly required on National Highways where local villages are located on either side of the main roads. The road is also divided near the signals for left turn. The various conditions and scenarios captured here are discussed in the detailed study.

4.1. Lane Separated for Local Bus Rapid Transit Route (BRT), by Pune Municipal Corporation

According to Possibility 1 mentioned above, in some parts of developed cities, there is a separate lane for public transport buses for fast and smooth operation of traffic. Due to insufficient width of the divided space provided for a “Bus Lane”, in some cases, buses move within the common channel instead of the separate lane. These are made with metal or constructed barricade dividers or fixed objects. Such dividers are sudden interferences in the flow of traffic due to their placement in the middle of the road. No visibility of the same often creates collisions and multiple vehicle pile-ups.
To alert the oncoming traffic of such obtrusions, some flat board or panel with strips is installed. These plates usually accumulate dust, which affects visibility. In Figure 4, the current scenario, the plate is installed to separate the lane, and the graphical representation of the proposed signs is represented digitally for “Divider Ahead Alert”. To alert vehicles about the BRT route, the current solutions are also displayed in Figure 5.
Figure 4. The multiple solutions seen on roads to show dividers. The current signage is displayed in the right part of the image within the red circle.
Figure 5. The BRT Lane separates the local bus lane from the main lane.

4.2. Lane Divided Due to over- or under Bridge on the Road

According to the possibility mentioned in the heading, on some roads there are over- or under bridge. Some vehicles choose to avail the bridge, to bypass the pedestrian crossings and save time. To separate the lane for the bridge and the left lane connecting to the underpass or local adjacent village, dividers are constructed and installed. The bridge wall itself plays the role of “Lane Separator Wall” on such roads. The concerned departments fail to display permanent alert signs in some areas where there is some kind of divider lane ahead. Such ignorance results in many accidents due to the abruptness of these dividers on the road. To alert the user of such dividers, some “Divider Ahead Alert” signage samples with the current scenario and graphical representation in Figure 6.
Figure 6. (a) Example of Possibility 1: Lack of signage alerting incoming traffic of road diversion due to onset of overbridge wall. A strong visual signage system is required to alert users at least 1 km before the separator wall and control the speed of the vehicle. To strengthen the alertness of drivers, one more sign needs to be installed near the divider spot as well. (b) Lack of signage alerting incoming traffic of the sudden divider to avoid traffic jams. A strong proposed visual signage system is required to alert users.

4.3. Separator to Divide Lanes

Sometimes lines are drawn on both sides of the road separator or dividers, generally to prevent confusion about the direction, causing a traffic jam.
Although there are studies on safety and exit signs using eye-tracking [23] and evaluation of signage using eye-tracking techniques [24], hardly any studies address the negative consequences of improper application of divider caution signs.

References

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