Decoding the Dashboard - Do UK drivers really know the dashboard signals?

8 Posted: 8th Jan 2024
Decoding the Dashboard - Do UK drivers really know the dashboard signals?
  • Learning to drive can be a challenging experience for new drivers, as it requires not only passing theory and practical tests, but also acquiring knowledge that can often be learned the hard way - knowing what to do when their dashboard lights flash up in their car.

    Whilst this may be part of a typical theory test for learner drivers, do drivers really remember the signals? In our new survey, a concerning trend emerged regarding the knowledge of dashboard signals among drivers in the UK.

    The study, which quizzed 2,000 drivers from across the nation, found that the average British driver can only recognise 45% of dashboard lights - despite 8 in 10 people saying they were confident they knew them all before sitting the test. 

    Alongside these results, we created our own quiz for you to test your knowledge of dashboard signals. You can access this game here.

  • How many drivers actually know what the dashboard signals mean?

    According to our survey, 79% of drivers were confident in their understanding of the dashboard signals and their meanings, 9% felt unconfident, and 12% were somewhere in the middle.

  • Which dashboard signals do drivers recognise the least?

    Our survey revealed that the average driver was able to define the meaning of less than half (47%) of the dashboard signals shown in their car, with an average score of just 15 out of 32.

    This means that approximately 93% of drivers in the UK do not know all the dashboard lights that could appear in their vehicles.

    Younger drivers (aged 18-24) were the worst at recognising dashboard signals, with an average recognition rate of 31%, whereas interestingly, older drivers (aged 65+) tended to display better symbol recognition with an average recognition rate of 51%.

    The dashboard signal that most people were unfamiliar with was the emissions control light, with a 7% recognition rate overall, as well as behind the signal that gives drivers the most anxiety.

    However, the dashboard lights that were most commonly recognised were bonnet open and boot open, both at 80%.

  • The most anxiety-inducing dashboard signal

    With the majority of drivers in the UK unable to know what to do for over half of their dashboard lights, it’s possible that this could lead to driving anxiety.

    While some dashboard lights are simple and non-urgent, there may be times when an unknown signal appears and causes panic or confusion for drivers.

    Our survey also highlighted that the emissions control light was the most anxiety-inducing signal, with 1 in 4 (24%) drivers reporting it as such. This correlated with the finding that it was the least recognised signal. 

    Following on, ‘brake system’ (12%), ‘low fuel level’ (9%), and ‘engine oil pressure’ (9%) were also some of the most anxiety-inducing dashboard lights, despite over the majority of drivers being able to correctly identify these (brake system - 52%, low fuel level - 69%, engine oil pressure - 69%).

  • Which region knows the most dashboard signals?

    Through the data, it was revealed that some regions proved to be more knowledgeable than others when it comes to recognising dashboard lights.

    In the number one spot was the East of England, followed by Wales, and Northern Ireland.

    Surprisingly, London drivers recognised the least amount of dashboard signals, with the West Midlands, and Yorkshire, also in the bottom three.

    However, across all regions, a common trend was revealed, as bonnet open and boot open were the most recognised signals by a whopping average of 80% of all drivers.

  • Top tips to get up to speed with dashboard signals

    To help with your knowledge of dashboard signals, help you become more confident when driving, and avoid any hefty fines for ignoring something you shouldn’t, we have a few top tips to get you back up to speed:

    Online information - There are plenty of resources on Google to help with your dashboard signals knowledge. We even have our own guide that you can read through with all the dashboard lights and their meanings.

    Vehicle manual - Your car’s manual may include some information into the dashboard lights that can appear in your car. Have a read and maybe get someone to quiz you to really solidify what you’ve learned - you can also do some quizzes for any of these tips.

    Courses - Why not take a course to brush up on your knowledge? There are courses you can access online that are great to help with your dashboard signal knowledge, and help you to become more confident when driving.


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