Did you know that the font you read in your car—not just what you read—could increase your level of distraction while driving? If not, chalk another one up to shocking revelations learned today.
According to a study from MIT’s AgeLab and font designer Monotype, the font displayed on an infotainment screen can greatly effect your attentiveness to driving, at least if you’re a guy.
The study took two very common types of font—a rounded “humanist” Frutiger font used on Swiss road signs and a squared-off “grotesque” Eurostyle font that’s oftentimes used in cars and trucks—and displayed both with directions. The results were dramatic.
Using the humanist font, men participating in the survey were able to reduce their time looking away from the road by 10.6 percent when compared to the grotesque font. At U.S. highway speeds, that represents a 50-foot stretch of road, or enough to prevent an accident. In women, there was no difference in time looking away from the road between each of the two fonts.
In many cases, automakers use fonts from their marketing departments—not anything dictated by science. AgeLab’s Bruce Mehler said he’d like to see that change, as automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are constantly searching for safer ways to scroll through the many displays new cars project. With the advent of smartphones and multiple functionality, cars now have to display constantly shifting screens with vast amounts of information. With the moving screens rather than static, old-fashioned buttons, Mehler says “legibility becomes much more of an issue than it ever was in the past.”
He continues: “If we can gain 10 percent improvement by changing certain font characteristics, maybe another 5 percent from the background, another couple of percentages taking into account color, we could add those all up and have a sizable affect.”
Check out the video below to see for yourself just how the study was conducted. Do you think your car’s font is distracting?