The Transport Department’s current review of traffic signs has so far avoided any mention of the “m” word and is likely to be a failure. UKMA has therefore produced its own proposals.
Last September the then Transport Minister, Rosie Winterton, announced “the biggest review of British road signs for 40 years”, which she claimed would “consider all aspects of road signing”, including safety, efficiency, cost, the environment and the “street clutter” caused by unnecessarily large and complex signs. The first result of this review, which was published in May, is extremely disappointing.
The draft “action plan” of this review, which might be better described as an “inaction plan”, fails to deal with the following key issues:
- the huge increase in international traffic, with 3 million visiting drivers unable to understand British road signs
- the use of long-winded verbal instructions rather than easily understood picture signs
- the increasing cost of bridge strikes – often attributable to foreign drivers not understanding height and width restrictions in feet and inches
- disregard of the international standards laid down by the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals (which the UK is signed up to).
In response UKMA has produced its own proposals for addressing these problems. These are summarised in a new leaflet “Traffic Signs 2.0” which can be downloaded by clicking on this link. Alternatively, free copies can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
The proposed new signs, which use exclusively metric units, remove the need to be familiar with two systems of measurement, are clearer and simpler than current cluttered signs, and will reduce the number of language-specific signs on our roads. Some examples of the improved signage proposed by UKMA are given below.
Current cluttered signs Clear metric signs
More examples can be seen on the UKMA web site.
The last major review of traffic signs took place in the 1960s in response to the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals. This is an international treaty designed to increase road safety and aid international road traffic by standardising the signing system for road traffic (road signs, traffic lights and road markings) in use internationally. (Incidentally it has nothing to do with the European Union).
Note: in 2006 UKMA produced a comprehensive case (“Metric signs ahead“) for converting traffic signs to metric units. The DfT attempted to close down discussion of the issue by producing grossly exaggerated cost figures and claiming that UKMA’s proposals would be “a waste of taxpayers’ money”. The absurdity of the DfT’s figures can be gauged by comparing the DfT’s claimed cost of £1200-1400 per sign with the actual cost of £100 per sign when the Irish Republic converted its speed limit signs in 2005. Further cost comparisons and an explanation of the discrepancy can be read at this link .
Robin Paice, UKMA chairman said, “It would appear from reading the review’s initial Draft Action Plan, that major safety issues, which are costing the country millions of pounds each year, have so far been overlooked. We believe that the practical solutions proposed in our leaflet, which also addresses issues of signage clutter, and the use of standard symbols, should be properly considered by the DfT’s Steering Group. What would be unforgivable would be if the DfT were to make changes to road signs now – only to have to do it all again when they inevitably have to be converted to metric units in a few years time. That really would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.”