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Motorists Vs Road Signs

When was the last time you referred to the Highway Code? It’s the kind of question nobody likes to be asked, as it turns out that most of us could do with a refresher. 

UK Traffic SignsAccording to a recent survey, many private and motor trade drivers of new and used cars are unable to explain the meaning of all the different road signs. The least recognised sign of all was symbolising a ‘flow bus and cycle lane’, it was only recognised by 21% of the motorists surveyed.

Relatively common instructions sometimes fare as badly as the more unusual signs, with a worrying 62% of motorists unable to explain the function of a ‘no entry’ sign! Strangely, more drivers can identify a ‘level crossing without a barrier’ mainly spotted in rural areas, than a sign indicating a cycle route which is common on large and small roads in towns and the countryside.

While some signs are rarely seen and unlikely to make a difference to your journey, ignoring or misinterpreting road signs could potentially lead to an accident and unlikely to do your insurance policy premium any favours!

Less than half the motorists polled could recognise a ‘turn left’ sign, even though three quarters understood the instruction to keep left. The sign achieving the highest recognition with 93% of respondents able to identify it was a ‘side winds’ sign, perhaps the image of a windsock is memorable and easy to understand.

Even when drivers do understand what a road sign means, sometimes, we still can’t read them. In a survey carried out by Transport Focus, nearly 30% of motorists admitted to missing their exit on a motorway because they didn’t spot the sign for their junction in time.

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The main route of this problem causing 74% of navigation issues, were large high sided lorries and coaches. Unfortunately, moving to the middle lane to overtake these vehicles often puts them just in the right spot to obstruct your view of the signs on the left of the carriageway. Some drivers also complained of poor sign maintenance, making them illegible due to wear and tear, and other drivers mentioned that some signs were being obscured by trees and foliage.

If you do see a sign too late it can be very tempting to dive across lanes and solid white lanes on a slip road, putting yourself and other motorists at serious risk. Junctions are an accident hotspot, with nearly 16% of motorway crashes occurring at a junction. According to the survey, the better placement of the junction number would make life easier for motorway drivers, 64% of drivers polled would like to see junction numbers located as high up on the sign as possible for greater visibility.

Just in case you do come across an unreliable junction sign when out driving, ensure you leave yourself plenty of time to prepare for the exit. Make a mental note of the junction number required and start looking out for signs as soon as you pass the junction before it. If you see a sign coming up, consider moving over to the inside lane and slowing down to give yourself a better chance of reading it and of taking the exit you need.

It’s never too late to buy a new copy of the Highway Code for the glove box.