The lane-changing behavior in work zone areas has special features than a regular lane change as the former is usually compulsively motivated involving complicated cognitive processes with drivers’ perception of work zone control devices. Toward this end, this study conducted a driving simulator-based experiment to understand the effects of lane-end sign distance and traffic volume on driving behaviors. A conceptual model was also proposed to partition the whole lane-changing process into three stages, i.e. the perception, preparation and action stages, reflecting different cognitive and manipulative activities of drivers. In addition to the lane-end sign distance and traffic volume, gender and profession of drivers were adopted as covariates. In this experiment, a complete combination of lane-end sign distance and traffic volume served as treatments. The results verify the impacts of those factors on driving behaviors in and across different stages. For example, the location of the lane-end sign had a profound influence on drivers’ perception of the imminent work zone situation, but the influence continued to diminish in the following two stages. On the other hand, male or taxi drivers tended to act earlier than female or regular drivers respectively, for all the three stages. According to the analysis, several practical implications were also provided. In specific, the lane-end sign is recommended to be installed 500 m upstream to the lane dropping point of work zones. It is a pioneer study toward investigating multistage driving behaviors in work zone areas, which is expected to provide references and guidance for the design of traffic control devices and other driving simulator-based studies.