Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - traffic signals, operations - traffic, planning - education, ridership - drivers, ridership - young people


Warning signs, Traffic signs, signals and markings, Traffic signs and signals, Traffic signs, Traffic signals, Traffic markings, Traffic lights, Traffic control signals, Traffic control devices, Teenage drivers, Road markings, Regulatory signs, Recommendations, Pavement markings, Juvenile automobile drivers, Highway traffic signals, Highway signs, signals and markings, Highway signs, Handbooks, Guidebooks, Flashing traffic signals, Driving schools, Driver education, Comprehension, Carriageway markings, Arrows (Signals)


Teenage drivers are involved in traffic crashes more often than any other driver group, and their fundamental knowledge of traffic control devices and rules of the road is extremely important in safe driving. Only limited data exist, however, on teenage drivers' understanding of traffic control devices, and little research has been done on determining their comprehension thereof. Research was performed to document teenage drivers' ability to understand 53 traffic control devices. These traffic control devices included 6 combinations of sign shape and color; 8 regulatory signs; 14 warning signs; 7 school, highway-railroad grade crossing, and construction warning signs; 7 pavement markings; and 11 traffic signals. Research results were then compared with previous comprehension studies to identify specific traffic control devices that the driving public continually misunderstands. In general, the results indicated that surveyed teenage drivers understood the traffic control devices to some degree. Only nine devices were understood by more than 80% of the respondents. The devices found problematic to teenage drivers include combinations of sign shape and color, warning-symbol signs, white pavement markings, flashing intersection beacons, and circular red/green arrow left-turn-signal displays. Recommendations include revising states' drivers handbooks and increasing emphasis in the driver education curriculum to clarify the meaning and intent of problematic traffic control devices.