US drivers have problems with the dashboard warning lights image

Car designers and engineers often fight for space on the prime piece of real estate in a car: the instrument cluster. However, a recent survey suggests that the space they’re getting isn’t used well.

The study suggests the design effort that goes into designing the lights and signals found on the instrument hasn’t helped motorists and most motorists find the signals confusing and unintelligible.

The website surveyed 2,000 drivers asking them to identify 10 common dashboard lights. The icons for partially closed doors, air bag problems and child safety lock activation were correctly identified more often than warning lights for tire pressure, brakes, low fuel and engine overheating. The survey also found the vast majority of drivers – roughly 82% – don’t think cars have too many warning lights, but not everyone knows what they mean. In fact, 49% couldn’t figure out the tire pressure warning light and 46% could not decipher the meaning of brake system warning light.

Also almost half of drivers indicated they would not know what to do if their car’s tire pressure or brake system warning light flashed, and nearly 20% of don’t know what the low-fuel light means, according to the survey.

“One has to question the effectiveness of warning lights, especially in cases where well over a third of drivers can’t guess what they mean,” said Michelle Megna, managing editor.

Respondents were asked to rank the level of confidence they had in knowing what various warning lights mean with “very confident,” “might know” and “probably wouldn’t know.”

When asked how confident they would be in knowing what the lights meant without referring to their owner’s manual, just 37% of drivers said they were “very confident.” Nearly half (49%) said they “might know” and 12% admitted they “probably wouldn’t know.”

Men felt more confident than women by a 19-point margin: 47% of the men were confident they knew what the signals meant, while on 28% of the women felt the same. Nine percent of the men surveyed said they “probably wouldn’t know” what the signals meant, while 15% of the women said they probably wouldn’t know.