In Depth

Are the UK’s road signs dangerous?

Drivers tell transport watchdog that obscured junction numbers can lead to hazardous motorway incidents

Britain’s motorway signs can cause drivers to make dangerous manoeuvres because they are hard to read, according to motoring experts. 

A report by Transport Focus, a watchdog for roads and vehicles, has criticised the design of motorway signs as their junction numbers are often obscured, Auto Express reports. 

The study, which surveyed more than 2,000 motorists, found that 95% of respondents had seen drivers carry out “dangerous manoeuvres”, such as swerving across multiple lanes to get to an exit or even reversing along the hard shoulder after missing a slip road, the magazine reports. 

Around 17% of those surveyed also admitted to making a potentially hazardous manoeuvre themselves because a junction number was obscured, the Daily Mail says.  

Meanwhile, 74% of drivers said they were unable to read motorway signs because they were blocked by large lorries and 47% claimed that overgrown vegetation blocked junction numbers, the news site adds. Damaged signs and poor lighting were also blamed.

What changes does the watchdog propose?

Transport Focus argues that the problem stems from the position of junction numbers, which are often in the lower left-hand corner of motorway signs and are therefore easily obscured, The Sunday Times reports.

The fix is simple: put the numbers in the top-left corner of signs to make them more visible, the newspaper adds.

“In light of these findings, Transport Focus recommends that Highways England reviews the position of junction numbers on road signs to ensure maximum visibility for the safety and convenience of all road users,” the watchdog said.

What do critics say?

The Daily Telegraph’s motoring editor, Paul Hudson, argues that drivers are to blame for dangerous manoeuvres, not obscured road signs.

He claims that the Highway Code instructs drivers that, if they miss an exit, they should continue along the road until the next exit. 

“Even if you’re relentlessly modern and rely on technology, even the slowest-acting satellite navigation device will provide ample time to plan and execute the manoeuvre to leave the motorway, so what’s the big deal?” Hudson adds. 

What about the Government?

Highways England, the government body in charge of Britain’s motorways and major roads, said it would take the transport watchdog’s findings into consideration.

“We welcome any research which we can add to our own insight to help us better understand road users’ needs and improve their experiences on our roads,” a spokesperson for Highways England said.

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