Signing and Marking

Signing and Marking


Clear and efficient signing and marking is an essential part of highway and traffic engineering. Signs and markings are used to control and guide traffic and to promote road safety. Great Britain is thought to have one of the safest road networks in the world and the quality of its traffic signs and markings make a significant contribution to this.

Signing and carriageway markings should comply with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD). Any signs that are not prescribed in the TSRGD must be authorised by the Secretary of State.

To be effective, signs and markings must be designed and implemented in a way that the messages they convey are clear, unambiguous, visible and legible. Maintenance of signs and markings is important.

Whilst one of the primary objectives of road signs, signals and markings is to provide useful information to the driver so that the resulting appropriate behaviour will prevent RTIs, they also indicate legally enforceable speed regulations at specific locations. However, road signs and signals that are intended to moderate speed will generally lose all their effectiveness if infrastructure operators fail to ensure the messages conveyed are enforced and are consistent with the actual road conditions at any given time.

Research shows that inadequate and poorly maintained road signs and markings are often cited as a significant contributing factor to RTIs. Approximately 30 per cent of drivers involved in an RTI report some sort of distraction. Around a third of these RTIs are thought to be caused by external distractions. This includes signs, signals, billboards and commercial signs. Distraction can also be caused by looking for a sign that may be missing. Therefore, continuity of directional signing is important. Young (aged 17-21) drivers are particularly prone to external-to-vehicle driver distraction caused by signs. The risk factor associated with sign clutter is also shown to be highest at junctions and on long monotonous roads (such as motorways).

There is increasing interest and research into traffic management schemes aimed at simplifying the road environment, through methods such as the removal of unnecessary signs to reduce complexity and driver confusion. However, too few signs and markings can cause driver confusion, poor traffic management and inappropriate speeding. Conversely, too many signs and markings are thought to cause cluttering and mental overload. Poorly designed and placed signs and their over-provision detract from the environment, and affect road safety by distracting the road user.

  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:08 AM
  • Last Update: 07 Feb 2013, 07:28 AM