Consumers Know Emojis Better than Road Signs, According to Mercury Insurance

Only two percent of survey respondents turned in a perfect score on everyday visual communication symbols


Emojis and road signs are designed to do much the same thing, namely, convey information graphically and thus nearly instantaneously. Both are used almost daily and both are widely recognized by the public. Or are they? A recent survey conducted by Mercury Insurance revealed that many respondents failed to recognize the intent of road signs as readily as they did the meaning on popular emojis. While an amusing commentary of today’s era, it is also concerning because road signs are important guidelines for safely operating a vehicle on the road.

“Road signs instantly communicate to drivers what actions to take, much like emojis instantly communicate what friends or family members might be trying to say in a text,” said Kevin Quinn, Mercury Insurance’s vice president of claims and customer experience. “It’s okay to only somewhat understand an emoji, but it’s imperative to know exactly what a road sign is telling you. Not knowing could lead to disastrous results on the road where no one can afford a misunderstanding.”

Mercury surveyed nearly 2,000 respondents to gauge their familiarity with both common road signs and popular emojis. The “yawning” emoji was correctly identified by 85% of the respondents, but only 31% of respondents knew what the “lane reduction” road sign meant. The “in love” emoji was correctly identified by 71% of the quiz-takers, while the “keep right” road sign was only correctly identified by 51% of those who completed the survey. Only 2% of respondents received a perfect score on the 12-question quiz.

While road signs are frequently studied, especially by those about to take a driver’s test, scientific studies of road sign recognition and understanding are rare or non-existent. Yet, not understanding what a road sign is indicating — for instance, that a lane of traffic is ending — could be fatal for both drivers and road construction workers in the area. The failure to grasp the meaning of a “no passing” sign could result in a violent head-on collision.

Distracted driving, anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, including texting and talking on the phone, accounted for 3,166 fatalities in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Most, if not all, collisions are avoidable if drivers focus on their main task of safely operating a vehicle,” Quinn said. “Being an attentive driver who knows the rules of the road and safely gets where they’re going might earn you a smiley face from your auto insurance company, just don’t view it while you’re driving.”

Mercury Insurance offers a wealth of free information and tools to help prepare for life behind the wheel and shape responsible driving behavior. Visit to access tips, videos, quizzes and much more.

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About Tom Ripley 54 Articles
Born in Boston, Tom Ripley has been writing about the automotive industry and the human condition for more than a decade. He's a frequent traveller but nominally resides in Villeperce, France.