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How do you reduce road sign clutter without affecting road safety?

The UK’s roadsides have become ridiculously cluttered, with the number of road signs more than doubling since 2003 to over 4.6 million today.

And when he announced the new proposals, Roads Minister Robert Goodwill MP was right to say “This is causing unnecessary clutter in our towns and cities”.

Road Signs

So on the face of it, the idea of devolving more responsibility back to the local councils and giving them more freedom to reduce the amount of signage deployed sounds great in principle – and that’s what is driving the recently announced consultation.

What’s It All About

The proposals set out some significant changes to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) legislation and aims to give local authorities a much more proactive role in deciding when and where to place signs, allowing traffic authorities to choose to place fewer new signs and remove existing signs.

It will also enable greater freedom in determining where road signs or road markings are the most appropriate form of communication to the road user.

Changes to the design rules for direction signs will also help reduce the size and appearance of these signs, reducing the amount of visual clutter they can create.

In addition, it is hoped that the changes to sign illumination requirements will also help reduce clutter, removing the need for unsightly luminaries.

Does It Make Sense?

At first it may seem a little counter-intuitive to say that by cutting the amount of road signs we can ensure that our roads are even safer for cyclists and motorists, as many would argue that improving road safety is the very reason why many of these signs were installed in the first place.

However, that is what the consultation sets out to challenge.

The argument made is that “over-provision of signs can have a detrimental impact on the environment and can dilute important messages. If they result in information overload for drivers they can contribute to driver distraction, which can have an impact on road safety.”

This is something we can all agree on.

We’ve all driven through unfamiliar towns and cities and had those fraught moments when sat nav is lost and you rely on the road signs – only to be bombarded by a mass of signage and you have a split second in which to take it all in and make an educated guess about which way to go.

On the whole, the proposals seem to redress the balance between practical safety and information communication, and the ‘health and safety gone mad’ factions that prevailed in the late 90s into the noughties.

However, we still need to ensure that balance is properly struck.

Some authorities might this purely as an opportunity to save money as we continue to see budgets cut, so it is critical to ask why the road signs and road markings were placed there originally.

If they really are superfluous, then by all means remove them – but if they have a genuine reason for being, then ask what would happen if they were no longer there?

Will Our Roads Be Safer Without The Signs?

If we start to reduce road signage and road markings, how do we ensure that road users are alerted to hazards on the road network? Sharp bends, blind corners, complex junctions exist right across the network and any notion to remove signage or markings has to be done justifiably.

Without some sense of warning (especially at night), many of these areas quickly deteriorate to become accident blackspots.

In many cases, we have seen road signs and white lining replaced by more visual but less intrusive measures, such as the Astucia SolarLite road studs, which provide active definition of the road layout ahead for up to 900m.

Where they have been deployed in accident reduction schemes they have been proven to decrease night-time accidents by up to 72%, turning some of the UK’s worst roads such as the A4128 in Buckingham into the most improved.

If you’d like to find out more about Clearview Traffic Group and our road safety solutions, please feel free to get in touch here.

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