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Driver response to variable message sign information in London

Bonsall, P. W.; Hounsell, N. B.; Chatterjee, K.; Firmin, P.E


P. W. Bonsall

N. B. Hounsell

P.E Firmin


Variable message signs (VMS) have been installed in London to notify motorists of planned events and current network problems. To guide investment and operational decisions an understanding is required of the impacts of VMS information. This paper presents the results of a study of driver response to VMS information. The study employed questionnaires to investigate the effect of different messages on route choice. A statistical analysis of stated intention questionnaire data enabled logistic regression models to be developed relating the probability of route diversion to driver, journey and message characteristics. The resultant models indicate that the location of the incident and the message content are important factors influencing the probability of diversion. A survey of drivers' actual responses to a message activation showed that only one third of drivers saw the information presented to them and few of these drivers diverted, although many found the information useful. Only one-fifth of the number of drivers diverted compared to that expected from the results of the stated intention questionnaire. It is thought that the low response rate achieved for the stated intention survey will have exaggerated drivers' responsiveness to VMS messages. Interestingly, survey data for another UK city with a newly installed VMS system showed that the number of drivers diverting due to VMS information was very similar to that expected from the results of the stated intention questionnaire. It is suggested that the use of London's VMS signs to display warnings of disruptions expected on future dates may be reducing their effectiveness as a channel for more urgent warnings. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


Hounsell, N. B., Bonsall, P. W., Chatterjee, K., & Firmin, P. (2002). Driver response to variable message sign information in London. Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 10(2), 149-169.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2002
Journal Transportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
Print ISSN 0968-090X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 2
Pages 149-169
Keywords variable message signs, driver response, driving, London
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Lead author. Analysis of primary data collected by the authors in a collaborative European Commission project where first two named authors were responsible for work in London evaluating field demonstrations of transport telematics. Findings influenced Traffic Control Systems Unit policy on usage of variable message signs in London.