European Motorists want harmonised Road Signs
Publication date: 22 March 2005
European motorists had the opportunity to express their views on Road Signs both at home and abroad in an international survey implemented by EuroTest, a consortium of European motoring and touring clubs under the aegis of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) Brussels. And the overall verdict was that 91% of European motorist want harmonisation of road signs on Europe’s roads.
The international survey, conducted in two phases during October 2004 to January 2005, set out to determine whether or not motorists in Europe feel that they are sufficiently and optimally informed by the road traffic signs they encounter on Europe’s roads. In total more than 15,000 European motorists were surveyed either by computer assisted telephone interviews or via internet-based questionnaires. The methodology was developed by ADAC and RACC, the German and Catalonian motoring clubs with the support of the EuroTest partners.
Regrettably, the EuroTest findings reveal road signs often do not perform as intended due to various reasons. Good signposting should promote smooth traffic flows, help to counter traffic congestion, have a favourable effect on road traffic safety and comfort of drivers. However our survey revealed failings such as signs being obscured or rendered invisible due to the presence of large billboards or foliage, clusters of signs giving too much information impossible to be assimilated in a short time and signs being placed too close to the target, not giving the driver enough time to react.
One of the biggest problems identified by the participants to the test is the diversity of signs in different countries. Drivers find it hard to understand foreign signs especially the parking prohibition signs and the ones regarding minimum speed limit. An average of 91% of the test participants ask for the harmonisation of Road Signs except the UK where this idea is backed up by only 72%.
This demand becomes more urgent now that the EU decision makers have decided to support a tighter enforcement of road traffic rules in support of better road safety. This means that if motorists commit traffic offences abroad, their home country will be obliged to execute the penalty imposed abroad even if the same act carries a lighter or even no penalty at home. The arguments made by authorities against harmonisation of road signs such as negligible road safety benefits vis ŕ vis the costs and possible greater confusion due to the number of signs to change do not justify doing nothing about these problems.
As a first step towards harmonisation a European website should be developed featuring all the road signs that can be encountered during a trip abroad. This website would become a unique source of information preventing drivers from breaking unknown rules. In a Europe of 25 member states soon to be 27 more research is needed to identify solutions. Road traffic signs are very important for the overall management of the road traffic system.
To underline the confusion that can be created by road signs EuroTest asked motorists to choose "the most stupid road sign" from a list of 12 proposals. The award winning candidate shows a clutter of signs placed at the entrance of a parking lot in Paris. The large majority agreed that it is impossible to read and comprehend all signs without creating a major traffic jam.
Johann Grill Director General of the FIA Brussels said: “The fact that 91% of European motorists want better harmonisation of traffic signs makes this a truly European issue. With road traffic safety policy currently under review in Brussels we make sure that road signs harmonisation is put on the agenda of the European Commission and the European Parliament.”
For more information:
Road Signs Test http://www.eurotestmobility.com/eurotest.php?itemno=60