Driver Age as a Factor in Comprehension of Left-Turn Signals

Document Type




Publication Date



National Academy of Sciences

Source Publication

Transportation Research Record

Source ISSN



An experiment to measure driver comprehension of left-turn signal and sign configurations was conducted as part of a study to investigate the performance of left-turn signals used in various signal strategies. The responses of 191 individuals to 81 stimuli simulating left-turn signal phases were analyzed for the effect of signal message on driver comprehension. Stimuli included 17 left-turn signal displays used for permitted, protected, and protected/permitted left-turn strategies as well as left turns during nighttime or emergency flashing signal operations. Comprehension in the original study was based on a correct versus incorrect dichotomy: if the subject's response agreed with a predetermined subset of possible answers, the answer was correct; all other answers were considered incorrect. These data are reanalyzed with three principal variations: (a) individuals' answers are based on a three-level correctness concept whereby answers considered incorrect in the previous study were further categorized into minor errors and serious errors depending on whether subjects incorrectly chose to “give away” their right-of-way or to violate other drivers' right-of-way, respectively; (b) signal message is introduced in the analysis as an explanatory variable of driver comprehension; and (c) emphasis is placed on older drivers. Youngest, oldest, and female subjects were found to drive fewer kilometers per year than middle-aged males. Comprehension was found to deteriorate with driver age in terms of both higher serious error rates and lower correct answer rates. Flashing signals were the least well understood, whereas change and red interval stimuli were understood best by all age groups.


Transportation Research Record, Vol. 1573 (1997): 76-85. DOI.