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Do Road Signs Make Driving Safer?

Updated: May 17, 2024

Road signs reminding drivers of safe speeds at which to drive and hazards particular to the area, like deer, have been erected in the interest of promoting safetly. Having lots of road signs, however, may actually not make driving safer. Studies suggest that having road signs and road bumps actually make drivers feel safer so they don't pay as much attention to traffic. Signs have also been shown to distract drivers, increasing their chances of overlooking pedestrians. Taking away the signs, on the other hand, appears to make drivers slightly anxious, which makes them pay more attention to their surroundings and so drive better. These studies' results are not tried and tested yet, however, so drivers can expect to continue to see signage for some time to come.

More about road signs:

  • Several cities have experimented with a new approach known as naked streets. Removing road signs has provided positive results in places like London, which saw accidents drop by 60% on a busy road after traffic lights were removed. The road was also made into a shared space road, which is used both by pedestrians and traffic. About 400 other cities in Europe have similar shared space roads.
  • In the US, areas that do use traffic signs are instructed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). These regulations do try to keep signage to a minimum, since people are more likely to ignore signs when there is an excessive number of them.
  • Since traffic patterns vary greatly, having no signs doesn't work everywhere. When used correctly, traffic signals like lights can go a long way to increase the capacity of an intersection and improve traffic flow.
Discussion Comments
By anon329815 — On Apr 11, 2013

Roadsigns provided by state and federal information are not nearly as distracting as the small and large billboards for stuff and such that clog the nations roadways everywhere on the nations highways.

Billboards are the world's worst on the roadway. Besides being the most destructive applications of modern culture, they are the ugliest things ever. Get rid of them for safety and beauty of the country in which we love to travel.

By anon329655 — On Apr 11, 2013

There are two cities in the Netherlands, Borssele in Zeeland and Smallingerland in Friesland where they took away all roadsigns. It works!

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