Highway traffic sign comprehension: a cross-cultural study

D Shinar, R Dewar, H Summala, L Zkowska

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The increasing worldwide mobility, and the acceptance of national driver licenses in foreign countries (regardless of the language of the country), bring to the forefront the issue of how well information is conveyed to drivers. Highway traffic signs are essential in communicating the road/traffic information. To assure a high level of comprehension signs can either be standardized across countries or present an unambiguous design that will match population stereotypes in all countries. To assess sign comprehension in todays international community 31 pictures of highway traffic signs were presented to 250 drivers in each of four countries: Canada, Finland, Israel, and Poland. In each country there were five groups of subjects: novice drivers, old drivers, problem drivers, students, and tourists. Half the signs in the set were common to all participating countries and half the set contained signs that were unique to the different countries. The same set was presented to all. The results showed that sign recognition varied widely among the different driver groups (older drivers performing the poorest), signs with good ergonomic design were recognized at high levels by all (even if unfamiliar), while some signs with poor ergonomic design were not well recognized - even in their country of use. Implications for standardization and design criteria are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTraffic Safety on Two Continents
StatePublished - 2000


  • Comprehension
  • Design
  • Design standards
  • Ergonomics
  • Information display systems
  • Standardization
  • Traffic signs


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