The city of Little Rock will make a shift to using only pictograms for street traffic signs after recent studies prove that residents are unable to read the text based ones.
The city began a trial of pictogram based signs in 2011 after a string of accidents involving pedestrians being hit by cars in cross walks in the downtown district captivated the news. The city installed signs symbolizing the need to yield to pedestrians and immediately saw a sharp decrease in pedestrian related accidents.
“The new signs were a lot of help. Of course at first I thought it was saying to just yield to black people since the stick figure seem to represent that,” says downtown worker Charles Ricardo. “I’ll admit I hit a few white people at first, but then I realized they were just symbolizing people in general. I feel a lot better about the safety of my fellow man now that those signs are up.”
Following the decline city officials began random testing of citizens in a controlled environment. When presented with text based signs only 14% of drivers were able to properly follow instructions such as Stop, Yield, Watch for Children, and speed limits. When utilizing only a color based approach, such as red lights, citizens actually showed an increase in doing the opposite of what the color stood for. 87% of citizens speed through a light when it turned red, and 96% failed to go at green.
When moving to a picture based approach 75% of citizens managed to identify the correct action. Further test show that reading skills of downtown workers fell below a 1st grade level, which would account for the inability to properly understand words like “stop” or use basic color associations.
“We were very surprised at the outcome of the study. We had no idea that our citizens couldn’t read,” city traffic advisor Wanda Sheppard tells us.
Signs will began being installed first in the downtown district, which seems to represent the largest problem, followed by the Chenal Valley area which has the second highest tested sign illiteracy rate. The city estimates the new signs to cost roughly $500,000. For pictogram ideas city officials state they are committed to playing “Draw Something” on their iPads until they get it right.