Mike Waters' Blog: 1 October 2008 - Shake up for road signage
01 October 2008
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
Take to the roads and there is a good chance that you will be bombarded with a plethora of shapes, sizes and colours of road signs. Designed to get you to where you need to be, some of them are very useful while others can be confusing. In fact, research shows that many British motorists struggle to understand even the most common road signs.
Apart from the annoyance that this causes to the lost driver it creates health and safety and environmental problems as drivers crawl around the roads lost. The recent survey by car manufacturer Vauxhall showed that a high proportion of people polled did not recognise the signs for 'no through road', 'no motor vehicles' or even 'no cycling'.
With this in mind its great news that the Department for Transport is about to kick off its biggest review of traffic signs in 40 years. What's even more pleasing is that to shape this review they will be canvassing opinion from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in an attempt to make sure that modern traffic signs make the best use of technology, help to cut congestion, have a positive environmental impact and keep traffic moving safely.
Now, gaining agreement on which signs stay, which go and which are introduced will not necessarily be an easy task as visual signage is often a fairly subjective thing and opinions will differ. For example, Wiltshire County Council has just banned a number of pub road signs, saying they could 'encourage drink-driving'. A view that the owners of the Black Dog pub certainly don't share!
Going back to Vauxhall's poll, the most suggested signs from drivers ranged from the practical, with 'cash machine nearby' or 'Wifi hotspot', to the calorie conscious with 'healthy eating zone' and 'drive-through approaching' and even the slightly more precise, with 'beware of skateboarders'.
The review will have begun by the second half of next year so it will be interesting to see the results, although for some, its not soon enough. In Wolverhampton a mystery sign fitter has been taking matters into their own hands by putting up their own comedy road signs containing jokes.
Tied to lamp posts and traffic lights throughout the city an example at one juntion said: "Why did the scarecrow win an award?", only for the answer to be revealed at the next junction: "Because he was outstanding in his field."