Advanced Notification Messages and Use of Sequential Portable Changeable Message Signs in Work Zones

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G.L. Ullman, B.R. Ullman, C.L. Dudek, A.A. Nelson, G. Pesti

Publication Date:

October 2005


In this report, researchers document the results of a laptop-based human factors study of alternative formats of presenting advance notice work zone information on portable changeable message signs (PCMSs) and a Texas Transportation Institute (TII) driving simulator study of the ability of motorists to capture and process information on two PCMSs used in sequence to convey information about upcoming traffic situations. Based on the studies, researchers recommend that messages that require the display of calendar dates for future roadwork and other traffic control activities should utilize a message format consisting of the three-character abbreviation of the month (e.g., APR for April) in conjunction with the date. When future work activities span several days all in the same month, the month needs be noted only once in the message (i.e., APR 21-23) rather than repeating the month (i.e., APR 21-APR 23). The ITI driver simulator study results indicate the need to keep overall messages at or below the four-unit maximum recommended in existing guidelines. Researchers found that presenting five units of information on sequential PCMSs resulted in low comprehension rates, below what would be acceptable for highway applications. However, by keeping the message length to four units, it does appear that the use of sequential PCMSs will result in comprehension rates comparable to those obtained by presenting the same information at a single location on a large dynamic message sign (DMS), and is recommended as an acceptable formatting approach for TxDOT. Comprehension may be enhanced by repeating one of the units of information on both PCMSs.

Report Number:



Driver information systems, variable message signs, work zones

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