Almost two-thirds of drivers aged 17-25 understand mock emoji road signs better than real world road signs, according to a Sussex based insurance firm.
Research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of MORE TH>N found drivers had difficulty understanding real world road signs, but no problems comprehending their emoji equivalents.
Misunderstood real world signs included the signs for zebra crossings, no bicycles and steep hills, with 27 per cent interpreting the ring road sign as ‘carbon neutral’ road.
Of the 1,000 young drivers surveyed, 37 per cent would welcome emoji road signs on Britain’s highways and byways.
The insurance company set up the research to discover the difficulties these drivers have comprehending official road warnings and notifications.
As part of the experiment, 12 real road signs were selected and emoji equivalents of those signs were designed. Young motorists were then asked to correctly identify the meanings of both the authentic signs and the mock emoji symbols.
A shocking 68 per cent were unable to correctly identify the real road sign depicting a pedestrian crossing. Additionally, 80 per cent could not place the sign for ‘no vehicles’, 60 per cent answered incorrectly when asked what the sign for a ring road was, and three quarters incorrectly identified the meaning for the ‘no bicycles’ road sign.
Intruiging misinterpretations also surfaced, as 25% erroneously believed the real sign for ‘no vehicles carrying explosives’ was a warning of spontaneously combusting traffic.
For seven of the 12 (58%) signs, the emojis were better understood by young motorists than the real life road signs, with comprehension for the emojis most pronounced for signs depicting zebra crossings, ring roads, no bicycles and steep hills.
While those of a certain age may have trouble deciphering the endless stream of smiley faces, emojis are now so deeply embedded in the everyday lexicon of teens and twenty-somethings that they have effectively become a language in and of themselves. The Oxford English Dictionary selected an emoji as the word of the year for 2015.
The majority of young drivers (63%) see no place for emojis on Britain’s road signs, believing they are too frivolous for such an important role (85%), could be confusing for older drivers (49%) and would encourage the use of mobile phones (33%) behind the wheel.
Of the one in three (37%) who would like to see the government introduce updated road signs more akin to emojis, 72% of believed emoji road signs would be easier to understand, while half (53%) thought they would improve road safety.
While the emojis used in the research by MORE TH>N SM>RT WHEELS were fictitious, real emojis already appearing on the roads of the UK with worrying regularity.
A third (32%) of those surveyed admitted they will use their phones to send emojis while driving their cars and 17% will use emojis every hour of the waking day. Consequently, one in 20 (5%) young drivers has had a crash or near miss because of an emoji-laden message they were writing behind the wheel.
Kenny Leitch for MORE TH>N said: “Emojis have changed the way the younger generation converses, so it’s understandable they can comprehend these symbols with ease. However, emojis have no place on our roads.
“Although, thankfully, there is little prospect of official road signs ever becoming like emojis, we still find ourselves in a situation where a significant number of young drivers do not understand the meaning of authentic road signs.
“This research shows that young drivers would benefit from improving their practical driving experience and knowledge before taking their driving test. As it stands you can pass your test without ever having driven at night or in poor weather conditions and seemingly without remembering even commonplace road signs.
“Young and inexperienced drivers would also benefit from telematics in their car as it focuses their mind on every mile of every journey, promotes greater knowledge of the roads and encourages and rewards them for being safer drivers.”
Meaning % Correctly identified meaning real road sign % Correctly identified meaning emoji version
No overtaking 91% 30%
Slippery road 79% 81%
Zebra crossing 32% 78%
Road works 98% 92%
Ring road 40% 83%
No vehicles 20% 17%
No explosives 41% 70%
Steep hill (20%) 13% 18%
No bicycles 25% 40%
No through-road 89% 89%
National speed limit applies 87% 67%
No waiting 78% 79%
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