Driver Behavior in Response to Flashing Lights

Kristin Kersavage, Nicholas P. Skinner, John D. Bullough, Philip M. Garvey, Eric T. Donnell, Mark S. Rea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Flashing yellow warning lights notify drivers about the presence of work along the road. Current standards for these lights address performance of the individual light but not how lights should function when multiple lights are used. In the present study, warning lights were used to delineate a lane change taper in a simulated work zone. Lights flashed with varying intensities and either randomly or in sequence, with lights flashing in turn along the length of the lane change taper, either to the right or to the left. In half of the trials, a flashing police light bar was used on a vehicle located within the simulated work zone. Participants were asked to drive a vehicle approaching the work zone and to identify, as quickly as possible, in which direction the taper’s lane change was (either to the right or left). Drivers were able to correctly identify the taper from farther away when the lights flashed in a sequential pattern than when the flash pattern was random; and the presence of a police light bar resulted in shorter identification distances. The results, along with previous research, can inform standards for the use of flashing lights and police lights in work zones for the safety of drivers and workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-708
Number of pages6
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


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