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Improved Typography Could Reduce Car Accident Risks

Posted in Blog on May 25, 2013

Improved, easy-to-read text on dashboard navigation screens can reduce the amount of time that a motorist spends looking at the screen, thereby reducing his risks of being involved in an accident.  Those are the findings of new research conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.

The MIT researchers collaborated with typeface provider company Monotype Imaging, and analyzed 82 subjects between the age of 36 and 75.  The researchers saw that these subjects found it much easier to read humanist-style fonts which have characters that are widely spaced apart, and therefore easier to read.  They found it much more difficult to read “square grotesque” fonts, in which the characters are tightly packed, and therefore, require more attention from the person.

There also seem to be gender differences in reading these fonts.  Women seem to find both types of fonts easy to read, while men found the humanist-style font easier to read.  When the men used the humanist-style font, it led to a 10.6% reduction in the amount of time that the person spent looking at the screen.  The lesser the time spent staring at the screen, the lower the risk of distracted driving.

The research doesn’t confirm exactly what type of text screens will be easy to read.  However, it will be interesting to see whether this research is taken further, and whether the federal administration gets involved in changing the kind of fonts that are used on navigation screens.  The federal administration could be very interested in the results of the study because it has been spending a lot of effort in devising strategies to keep a driver’s attention on the road, and not on in-car technology.

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