Many drivers can't identify mission-critical dashboard lights

Posted : 12/02/2013

Dec. 2, 2013 (Foster City, CA)  --  Almost half of drivers would not know what to do if their car's tire pressure or brake system warning light flashed, and almost 20 percent of people don't even know what the low-fuel light means, according to an Insurance.com survey.

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 2,000 drivers asking them to identify definitions for 10 common dashboard lights. 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.

Many drivers (82 percent) don't think cars have too many warning lights, but not everyone knows what they mean. Here are the percentages of drivers who could not identify the following automobile warning lights:

  • Tire pressure warning – 49 percent
  • Brake system warning – 46 percent
  • Cruise control activated – 42 percent
  • Fog beams activated – 40 percent
  • Electrical problem warning – 24 percent
  • Low fuel warning – 17 percent
  • Engine temperature warning – 17 percent
  • Child safety lock activated – 11 percent
  • Front air bag needs service – 10 percent
  • Open door warning – 7 percent

"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, Insurance.com 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 percent of drivers said they were "very confident." Nearly half (49 percent) said they "might know" and 12 percent admitted they "probably wouldn't know."

Men felt more confident than women by a 19-point margin. Here are confidence-level results broken down by gender:

Very confident

Men: 47 percent. Women: 28 percent.

Might know

Men: 28 percent. Women: 56 percent.

Probably wouldn't know

Men: 9 percent .Women: 15 percent.

“Despite all the advances in car technology, mysterious warning lights persist,” said Megna. “Maybe it’s time do something revolutionary, like use words instead of icons.”

VIN, PSI, D2: Whaaat?

Vehicle identification numbers (VIN) are used to match vehicles to owners, indicate which plant made the car, and identify the make and model, among other things. But just 18 percent knew the information contained in a VIN.

Drivers fared better when asked the definition of PSI and where to locate it: 89 percent knew it stands for pounds per square inch, a measurement used for tire pressure, and that the recommended pressure is stamped on tire walls.

As for that somewhat mysterious D2 on your shift options, 71 percent knew that it is used to manually decelerate -- for instance, when climbing or descending steep hills. Women know what D2 means more than men: 75 percent of females correctly answered compared to 66 percent of males. Eight percent of men said you use D2 for parking lot driving; 4 percent of women thought so.

If only there was a light for…

Insurance.com also asked people what lights should exist that currently don’t . The following are the most desired "warning lights":

  • Traffic congestion ahead; choose alternate route: 24 percent
  • Tire tread below 2/32 depth, legal limit for safe driving: 19 percent
  • Speed trap ahead : 15 percent
  • Mouse or foreign object in engine: 10 percent
  • Time to rest, you've been driving too many hours without a break:  8 percent
  • Heavy load -- driver and passengers exceed recommended safe car weight limit: 7 percent
  • Noise level alert -- noise level in car has exceeded safe level for driving: 6 percent
  • Blood pressure too high for relaxed driving: 5 percent
  • Safe to eat – notifies you that road conditions are safe for eating while driving: 3 percent
  • There's a McDonald’s within a half mile: 3 percent


Read the full article at: http://www.insurance.com /auto-insurance/safety/what-does-dashboard-light-mean.html


Insurance.com surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers age 18 and older. Respondents were split evenly between males and females and distributed across age groups according to Census data on age distribution. The online-panel survey was fielded in October 2013.

About Insurance.com

Insurance.com provides articles that help consumers understand insurance. The site makes it easy for consumers to research insurance questions and get fast, free comparison rates from multiple companies. Experts from Insurance.com are available for interviews about car insurance rates and other auto insurance topics. Insurance.com is owned and operated by QuinStreet Inc. (NASDAQ: QNST), one of the largest Internet marketing and media companies in the world. QuinStreet is committed to providing consumers and businesses with the information they need to research, find and select the products, services and brands that best meet their needs. The company is a leader in visitor-friendly marketing practices. For more information, please visit QuinStreet.com.


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Press contact:
Michelle Megna
mmegna (at) insurance.com

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