Recognition of road signs relative to their location and driver expectation

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


This study examined situations in which experience might paradoxically lead to a failure in the identification of traffic signs: when they are located in unexpected places. According to police reports, disobeying traffic signs is one of the most frequent causes of accidents. Because experienced drivers have a well-learned pre-determined schema for scanning the roadway, they should experience difficulties in identifying traffic signs when their location does not conform to the drivers' expectations. Thus, in such situations, the tendency to blame them for an accident is misplaced, and the real cause is inappropriate design of the roadway environment. In the present study, subjects were exposed briefly to a variety of real street and road scenes. Some of the pictures included "no right-turn" (NRT) signs in the expected location (on the right curb) and some contained the same sign in an unexpected location (on the left curb). Results showed that drivers were less likely to identify the NRT sign when it was located at the unexpected location. Interestingly, females were less susceptible to the sign location and their performance was much better than that of males with the same driving experience. The most important conclusion is that it is necessary to locate traffic signs in expected locations in order to increase the probability to identify them. The schema that drivers bring with them to the road enable them to handle large amount of information, but the same schema can hinder drivers if traffic signs within the environment are not placed where the drivers expect them to be
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Road Safety on Four Continents Conference
StatePublished - 2005


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