Cluttered road signs confuse European drivers
Publication date: 14 November 2008
EuroTest’s latest survey reveals that Europe’s roads are still too cluttered with road signs. Drivers remained confused.
EuroTest 2008 asked drivers to choose Europe’s most “abstract” sign from a selection of ten proposals. This year’s award went to a signpost spotted in Piemont Cuneo-Asti, Italy. It was so faded that hardly anything was discernible apart from a blue background and something resembling a full moon. EuroTest's respondents were literally stupefied. Second and third places went to signs spotted in the Austria and the UK. Their contradictory messages brought drivers to a halt.
EuroTest 2008 examined how satisfied European drivers are with directional signing and what requirements signposts should meet. Telephone interviews and internet based questionnaires were used between June and July 2008 to gather some 16,000 drivers’ views. A full 61% of the drivers surveyed consider the presence of too many signs as well as misplaced signs to be the main reasons why drivers get lost in unknown environments and areas.
Drivers are fairly adamant about the cause of confusion and distraction. Billboards compete with road signs for drivers’ attention. Road signs display too much information leading to data overload just at time when drivers have to make quick decisions. Interestingly though, the survey also revealed that drivers with navigation systems trust actual signposting more than their systems. On whole, though, drivers still are confused by road signing in Europe. Poor signs can even pose a potential threat to road safety.
“Road sign cluttering is getting worse,” said Caroline Ofoegbu, deputy Director General of the FIA European Bureau. She complains that authorities are finding new reasons to put up evermore road signs. One reason is to demarcate low emission zones that are sprouting up across Europe. Signs vary from country to country. To make matters worse, Italian signs even vary from zone to zone. EuroTest found that an average of 32% of drivers surveyed did not recognise signs depicting low emission zones or environmental traffic restrictions.
Ofoegbu also looks back to EuroTest's 2005 findings on road signs. “Then over 90% of European drivers wanted to see more harmonisation of traffic signs in Europe. This year’s survey again underlines the need to tackle the issue,” said Ofoegbu. Paradoxically, despite the ever greater confusion, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs across Europe. “With an ever changing picture, a common understanding of signposting is needed respecting the Vienna Convention. At present, signs not in the Convention are used unilaterally by some countries and in other cases the same sign may have different meanings,” said Ofoegbu.
Interviews were conducted with 16,000 participants in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.German club ADAC and its Catalan counterpart RACC developed the methodology with the support of the EuroTest partners. The EuroTest survey on Road Signs is at www.eurotestmobility.com
For more information contact, Caroline Ofoegbu.