Does it sometimes feel like road signs are popping up like mushrooms? Well that’s because the number of road signs has doubled in the last two decades, to 4.3 million at the last count.
As a result, the government is now telling local authorities to “reduce sign clutter”.
“The overuse of traffic signs blights the landscape, wastes taxpayers’ money and dilutes important safety-critical messages”, says the Department for Transport (DfT) in guidance to councils. Having too many signs can also distract drivers and increases the risks for road workers, the DfT warns.
The Department is encouraging a “less is more” approach from councils. It recommends they should review existing signs before putting up new ones and remove any that are “obsolete or unnecessary”.
Part of the problem is the use of temporary signs. The DfT says a “remove by” date should be placed on the back of temporary signs. That would help local authorities keep track of when signs should be removed and enable local residents to request the removal of a sign if it’s been left in place for too long.
For example, temporary red signs such as ‘new road layout ahead’ must be removed no later than three months after the completion of the works and black-on-yellow temporary signs for new housing developments must be removed within six months of completion of the development.
The DfT’s guidance also takes aim at signs directing motorists to tourist sights. These brown signs should only be provided for major destinations, it says.
Edmund King, president of the AA, told The Times: “You could get rid of about a third of signs, no problem. Actually reducing the number of signs will help drivers and lead to less confusion.”
Many drivers aren’t even sure of the meaning of common road signs. Drivers of all ages struggle to identify signs such as those indicating ‘end of dual carriageway ahead’, ‘ahead only’ and ‘no waiting’, according to research commissioned by Ageas.
Try our quiz here to test your own knowledge of common road signs and markings. You might be surprised by how many you struggle to identify.
There are some efforts being made to reduce the number of road signs in the UK.
Highways England, which manages over 4,300 miles of motorways and A roads, has been running a trial where information such as speed limits is displayed to drivers on screens inside their vehicles. If successful, this technology could lead to some of the huge overhead motorway gantries being taken down.
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