February 17, 2015 7:32 pm

Toronto using ’emotional messaging’ to curb distracted driving


TORONTO –  Electronic traffic signs along the Gardiner Expressway, Lake Shore Boulevard and the Don Valley Parkway have taken a decidedly emotional tone with messages including “someone loves you, drive safe” and “leave sooner, drive slower, live longer.”

“It’s a softer message about how people care about you and how they want you to get home safe,” said Toronto’s Director of Transportation Myles Currie. “We have about 60 messages in our library that we can cycle through.”

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The compassion is meant to curb distracted driving and has been in place for approximately three months. The messages appear at 18 locations throughout Toronto, and despite their unusual tone, Currie says they have been well received by the public. More importantly, they aren’t a distraction for drivers who have to divert their gaze to read them.

“The message is a quick glimpse, there are three lines of text. They (the driver) should be able to read them in a couple of seconds and focus back on the roadway,” Currie said.

Yale University researcher Rimma Teper said showing the messages to drivers is more effective than trying to teach people about safe driving when they’re not behind the wheel.

“It’s one thing to see an emotional advertisement when you’re at the mall and then you hop into the car three hours later. Maybe that’s not going to affect your behavior. But it’s a totally different story when you get that message (while driving) and you have the emotional reaction, and then 30 seconds later your cell phone beeps. You might be (more) inclined to act a bit differently,” said Teper, who studies how emotions inform human behavior.

The city of Toronto is studying whether or not to expand the signage program to arterial roads.


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