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New signs give highway drivers more reasons to stop at rest areas

According to recent survey results, new highway signs promoting rest area amenities are influencing motorists’ decisions to use them.

A sign posted on a rest area door invites readers to take a quick survey about the rest area. The sign includes a phone number to text or call, a QR code and a survey keyword.

Among the 947 respondents using an electronic customer feedback system, 33 percent said they had seen the signs and 29 percent were not sure if they had. Of these two groups, 27 percent indicated the signs influenced their decision to stop and 61 percent described the signs as helpful.

These visitors had the opportunity to take a quick survey via QR code displayed on door decals, stand signs and flyers at the rest areas.

“No other states have installed advance rest area signage that list amenities available at upcoming rest areas,” said Rob Williams, MnDOT’s Safety Rest Area program manager. “We believe this is a cost-effective way to entice people off the road for breaks.”

MnDOT began a two-year pilot project in 2015 to implement findings from its 2009 Rest Area Amenities Study, which suggested that more detailed signage about rest area amenities could encourage motorists to pull off and take a break – which could save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving-related crashes resulted in 795 deaths in 2017. Williams applied for research implementation funds to install 36 signs advertising the amenities ahead of 21 rest areas along Interstate 35 and I-94, as well as at the Brainerd Lakes Area Welcome Center.

Safety rest areas are one tool to keep drivers safe by giving them a place to stop, rest and refresh. MnDOT operates 51 Class I rest areas throughout the state, but not all rest areas offer the same amenities. Depending on the traveler, it may be a family restroom, fenced dog park, or children’s play area that best serves their needs.

MnDOT’s Rest Area Program is continuously working to improve rest areas to better serve travelers and reduce driver fatigue accidents.

“Our rest areas provide an opportunity to directly interface with Minnesotans and visitors traveling through our state, and we want to provide them with the best possible experience,” Williams said.

Ongoing enhancements to our rest areas include improving safety, accessibility and sustainability by:

  • Increasing visibility in rest area lobbies and installing video recording systems to improve visitor safety
  • Improving accessibility and introducing family restrooms
  • Increasing sustainability by use of native vegetation, installing electric vehicle charging stations, using materials with lower life-cycle costs and, in some cases, developing green roofs

The safety rest area program will seek funds to install additional advance signage as rest areas are remodeled. To learn more about the safety rest area signage project, visit the Office of Research & Innovation.