Are too many signs ruining our road journeys?

By: John Mack

The proliferation of road signs is getting beyond a joke.

Beautiful road journeys are slowly being obliterated by more and more mindless road signs, mostly created by local authorities because they have a budget to spend and the great Federal Nanny State Authority in Canberra has determined that they erect signs to protect us from our own stupidity. 

Plus, for the locals, if they don’t spend their budget this year it may be reduced next year – and then the dude responsible for road signage may not have anything to do and be terminated along with his or her ex budget.

Once pretty winding country roads are being despoiled by rows of large yellow and black ‘Arrows’ that are there to remind us this is a bend…. lest we forget and drive off the road. These are not restricted to sharp ‘U’ turns but are propagating along any short stretch of road that deviates from being straight by more than a few degrees. 

Blog -road -sign

Other than the unsightly distraction they are positively dangerous when driving down said road at night. The reflectance from these signs is blinding and their brilliance seems to last until they are at least several years old. You only have to hit the first one on high beam and you won’t see the rest – or much else! Really if you cannot recognise other indications that a bend is a bend then you should not be driving.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against all signs – warning signs such as stop signs are good, but do we really need signs, located right on the start of a narrow one lane bridge that says "No overtaking or passing on the bridge" – you could not fit two cars side by side anyway.  Fair enough having a ‘Single Lane Bridge Ahead’ sign where it should be – about 300 metres back up the road. 

Other nonsense signs include "Give way to stock on road" or "Stock have right of way".  This is good to know lest you plough into them after realising they are not getting out of your way.  One of the worst signs I saw was "Farm Gate" planted on the roadside about 1.5 metres for the rustic appendage that passed for a gate on that farm.  This really added to my ‘Have a safe journey’.

Open Range Sign

Yes, I have tried to do something about it. After enduring hundreds of bright yellow and black "Arrows" whilst driving on a very pretty section of the winding Gladstone to Monto ‘Highway’ I had a long email battle with the local authorities who filibustered every step of the way. 

They eventually blamed the federal regulations. When I challenged them that this was not the answer and what had they done to prevent at least some of the safety aspects of the poorly designed and ill-placed signage, their stance was ‘We have to follow regulations’. Yup. Just like sheep.

Then there are the millions of ‘Roads to Recovery’ signs scattered across the landscape, even on the smaller country roads. How many millions did this cost? And what was the benefit? If roads need fixing – fix them, don’t then add to the cost by erecting more useless signs.

Road _to _recovery

To add to this problem some local authorities allow the placement of huge advertising signs beside the road. These range from ‘Jesus Saves’ (What?) to ‘10 minutes to Big Maccas’. Some are located on private land adjacent to the roadside. 

Maybe the council view this as a win/win where the land owner gets a bit of cash as does the local authority for the licensing. To my view they are a safety hazard – a distraction, taking your eyes off the road and what is going on in front of you. They should be banned.

I recall reading of some trials in Germany where all the roads signs were removed in a test area. This resulted in a marked decrease in accidents! Seems like a good idea and would save a fortune in budgets as well. People were less distracted and apparently drove more cautiously.

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