Motorist Understanding of Directional Messages: Final Report

Report No: 82-R20

Published in 1981

About the report:

The report presents the findings of a study of motorists' perceptions of messages on interstate advance and supplemental guide signs. Approximately 5,100 questionnaires were distributed to motorists at eight rest areas on interstate highways in Virginia to determine the degree to which those motorists are confused by or misunderstand messages on guide signs. The study showed that motorists are somewhat confused by some messages on guide signs. The difficulty of interpreting the messages was found to be inversely related to driving experience. Wording of the messages on certain guide signs was determined to be the most important element relating to driver confusion. The messages most frequently misunderstood were those containing the word "next". The sign containing the term "this exit" was favored by motorists for an exit ramp in full view. For references to two ramps, they favored the wordings "first" and "second". They decried the use of "next" for these situations. Almost three fourths favored the numbering of exits. Deficiencies in signing for exits from the left side of the road were also noted. The need for more use of signs on the left side of the road and for diagrammatic signs was frequently mentioned by respondents.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Michael A. Perfater

Last updated: January 21, 2024

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