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The Psychology of Parking Signs

Parking and traffic signs have just a few seconds to convey important information to motorists. Making and achieving optimal design is essential to driver and passenger safety and convenience. Signage designers must take many factors into account, including human psychology, when designing signs for the highway, residential streets, parking decks, and other facilities. Considering the psychology behind traffic signs can help traffic planners and parking facility owners make the best decisions when selecting signage.

Parking Lot Safety

A surprising number of accidents occur in parking lot facilities. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about one fifth of all auto accidents occur in commercial parking facilities. Most of the time parking lot accidents only result in damage to other autos or parking lot infrastructure, but accidents resulting in injury and even death do occur. Parking facility owners would do well to use the best parking lot equipment to discourage avoidable accidents.

Angled Parking SpacesProper signage informing parking lot patrons of speed limits and reminding them to exercise caution when backing up or pulling around corners can help to reduce accidents and injuries in parking facilities. Good signage can also help to protect parking lot owners from potential liability in litigation involving accidents in their facilities. ParkingZone supplies a number of signs that incorporate best parking and traffic design practices to ensure they are effective in keeping drivers, their passengers, and other motorists safe.


There’s a significant body of psychological research showing that humans react in different ways to different colors. Color is a byproduct of the energy of light, and the human brain is wired to be very sensitive to various intensities of light.

Road Work Ahead SignIn practical use, the colors orange and yellow are often associated with positivity, and are used because they are highly visible and can encourage motorists to think beyond traffic hold-ups. That’s why they are commonly used for road construction signs. Blues and greens are colors often associated with harmony and peace, and are helpful in highway and limited access road signs, as they may help to calm drivers traveling on busy highways at high speeds.

Red is associated with caution and danger. That’s why many road signs urging caution, such as stop signs, incorporate red into their design.

ParkingZone’s stop, yield, and other standard signs follow traffic and parking sign industry standards for effective use of color. Years of research have gone into finding just the right colors for signs, and ParkingZone capitalizes on this knowledge to offer the very best signs for clients.


Shapes can also have an impact on cognitive and emotional response. Because the brain associates sharp points with danger, warning signs are often triangular. Books are rectangular in shape, and many informational signs such as mileage and directional signs are this shape because of this association. Round shapes are non-threatening and associated with learning, thus making circles and ovals the shape of choice for many informational signs.

Electronic Messaging signs can also incorporate shape and color theories used in parking signs, relaying information such as commands to stop, slow down, or yield in a familiar format. Because these signs are highly customizable, they are welcome additions to many parking facilities. The ParkingZone can help in identifying what type of electronic messaging sign can be beneficial to any parking operation.


School Parking SignEver wonder why there are so many signs in a school zone, pedestrian area, or parking garage? It’s because humans are very easily distracted. In many situations, drivers are responding to a variety of stimuli. Putting up multiple signs in certain areas works well to keep drivers focused on important tasks. For example, in a parking garage, many reminders of the speed limit may be posted because drivers may forget this information after picking up their ticket, moving up a level on a parking deck, etc.

Carefully Designed Fonts

Road and parking sign designers put a lot of thought into the fonts and letter sizes they use for signage. It’s very important that signs are legible in a variety of conditions. A sign that may be perfectly readable by day may not be legible at night or in a parking garage or deck.

In the early 20th century, road signs were in all capital letters. Psychologists eventually figured out that the mind processes longer strings of information or titles better if there are only a few capitalized letters on signs. Since then, sign lettering has used fewer all-caps signs.

Interstate SignAdding reflective traffic signs, either aluminum, plastic or composite, that employ these graphical standards increase visibility in low-light conditions and maximize recognition and information retention.

The need to quickly relate information is also important. That’s why many signs use familiar abbreviations. Abbreviations need to be easily understandable to the average driver, so most follow a standardized list.

Action, Action, Action

more responsive to parking and traffic signs that depict action. The university conducted five studies, and found that signs depicting motion result in better reaction times and vigilance among motorists, providing them with more time to stop their vehicles.

A recent study by the University of Michigan found that drivers areOne of the studies fitted college students with an eye-tracker to monitor how they evaluated signs. The study found that the students’ eyes focused on signs sooner and scanned the area around the signs more comprehensively if the signs depicted motion. Other studies had similar results.


Action SignResearchers hypothesize that signs showing motion cause the brain to process the information more urgently. A sign depicting a person walking doesn’t cause the driver to immediately worry about someone shooting out into the way of their vehicle, whereas a sign depicting running causes a more immediate reaction.

An Aging Population

Manufacturers of traffic and parking supplies will have to increasingly consider the needs of older drivers as they design parking and traffic signs. Men and women over the age of 65 are a growing demographic in the U.S., and many of them continue to drive well into old age.

the senior population will grow to 21.7 percent of the population. By 2060, the administration estimates the senior population will number 98 million.

Old 1According to the Administration on Aging, the senior population in the U.S. stood at 44.7 million in 2013, making up 14.1 percent of the population. In the next 20 years,
According to AAA, in 2009 about 33 million drivers were age 65 or older. By 2030, AAA estimates that more than 59 million drivers will be seniors. While in some cases seniors tend to be safer drivers than younger people, as they reach advanced age they become less safe as their physical abilities decline and their reaction times slow. Optimal sign design and repetition geared toward the needs of seniors can help reduce accident rates among this demographic, reducing the risk of damage to property and injury to people.

Parking lot equipment that uses large, bold lettering, as well as highly customizable signs such as the WindMaster line of parking signs, may be helpful in safely guiding older motorists as they navigate, parking lots, and facilities as well as advertising and guiding drivers to your parking operation.

Making the Right Choice with a Trusted Supplier

As evidenced in the material above, there is much more to designing parking signs than many would expect. Traffic planners and administrators of parking facilities must exercise care when choosing signage from manufacturers of traffic and parking supplies. The psychology of road and traffic signs plays an important role in their effectiveness and must be considered.

Open Parking Spaces

Quality also counts, making it important to select a reliable supplier of traffic and parking signs, as well as parking lot equipment and supplies. ParkingZone has provided parking and traffic equipment to customers around the country for nearly 30 years. Whether it’s parking signs, valet equipment, honor boxes, or other traffic and parking-related gear, ParkingZone only stocks the highest quality, most effective equipment. ParkingZone can assist facility owners in figuring out the best signage for a smooth traffic flow and all other parking equipment needs.


Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in finding the best signage for a smooth traffic flow and for all other parking equipment inquiries!

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