The relation between driving experience and recognition of road signs relative to their locations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: Examine how driving experience and expectations affect the ability of experienced drivers to identify traffic signs - specifically, no right turn (NRT) and no left turn (NLT) at intersections. Background: Failure to heed signs is a frequent cause of accidents, and the authors focused on the contributions of experience and expectancy to sign identification. Method: Inexperienced and experienced drivers were connected to an eye tracker system and briefly exposed to various traffic scenes. Some of the pictures included an NRT sign at the expected location (on the right), and some included the same sign at an unexpected location (on the left). The same procedure was used with an NLT traffic sign. Results: Experienced drivers identified traffic signs better than inexperienced drivers did when the signs were posted at the expected location but identified them worse than did inexperienced drivers when they were at unexpected locations. Conclusions: With experience, drivers' expectations regarding the expected location of traffic signs become so strong that violating these expectancies results in more identification errors among experienced drivers than among inexperienced drivers. To optimize experienced drivers' traffic sign identification, signs must be located in accordance with drivers' expectations - specifically, on the right side of the road. Applications: When signs are misplaced, crashes can be caused by inappropriate placement rather than inappropriate driving. Highway designers should ensure that their design conforms to standards that shape experienced drivers' expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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