U. S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
HS 808 705
Public Information and Education Issues
Participants get information on traffic conditions primarily from radio and TV traffic reports. Some also use and appreciate the information given on the variable overhead signs on the Beltway and major highways flowing into it. Most think the signs are helpful but some do not see them on the segments they travel and a few said they do not give enough information to really help. A few said they do not bother to look because the Beltway is always congested. Two of ten people in the group in which the subject was covered said they have used their cellular phones to call AAA for traffic information. Neither has called the DOT. A few participants have sometimes attempted to tune in Traffic Advisory radio when the sign directed to do so. They had difficulty finding the station or getting clear reception.
Most participants said they take alternate routes when they know the Beltway is congested and can find an alternate. They acknowledged that it would help them if appropriate alternates were displayed on the variable signs.
Participants have noticed safety messages on the variable signs. The only campaigns that came to mind were about drunk driving and seat belts. They approve of using the sign boards for this kind of message.
Some participants, including truck drivers and other motorists, believe that licensing requirements do not assure that drivers are adequately prepared to drive on the Beltway. A few expressed concern that multi-lingual tests put people on the road who cannot read signs. Some think an insufficient amount of experience is required. Some suggested that continuing driver education should be required and that drivers should be re-tested periodically.
All of the commercial drivers claimed that the company they work for has an inspection program that exceeds the requirements. They prefer random inspections at the terminal to inspections at weigh stations or on the roadside. This is especially the case for drivers who are paid by weight or load because the time an inspection takes is money they do not make.
Most of the truck drivers have noticed the rollover prevention devices that have been installed on Beltway exits over the past couple of years. They generally do not perceive them as benefiting them personally because they are local and know which ramps can cause problems. They do believe the devices save lives and said there are additional locations where the signals would be beneficial.