This study evaluated a number of techniques that could be employed to reduce the amount of time drivers spend searching and reading bilingual signs. Using a tachistoscope, monolingual and Welsh bilingual participants were presented with various configurations of bilingual signing. The amount of information was varied (i.e. the number of lines) and a number of language-differentiation techniques were implemented. These techniques attempted to aid the perception and recognition of the relevant language and relied either on manipulating the position of the two languages, or by using demarcation (colour, font etc.). With regards to the amount of information presented, it was found that the reading response time for a single line of relevant text within a two-line bilingual sign was not significantly different to the reading response time for a one-line monolingual sign. Thus, participants were able to extract the relevant language from the bilingual sign with no decrement in performance. However, reading response time for a message of two lines of relevant text in a four-line bilingual was significantly longer than the reading response time for a two-line monolingual sign. Thus the amount of information (even if irrelevant) impacted on their performance. With regards to the positioning techniques, grouping the lines by language resulted in a decreased reading response time compared to when the text was grouped by content. In addition, positioning the user’s dominant language at the top of the sign improved reading times for both one and two-line messages on bilingual signs. All the demarcation techniques were successful in reducing reading times on four-line bilingual signs, and it was found that having established a particular pattern of presentation, an unexpected change significantly increased reading time.
Keywords: bilingual; Variable Message Signs; reading time; traffic safety