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Sign of the times - Traffic signs: regulations and general directions update

25 July 2016/Categories: PTRC News


Sign of the times - Traffic signs: regulations and general directions update The PTRC course Traffic Signing – from first principles to best practice is planned for 6th – 7th September 2016 in London. The course will offer an opportunity for participants to learn from industry specialists as they explain how best to approach the process of sign design to enhance road safety whilst avoiding over-provision.

Andrew Thurston, Technical Director, Jacobs has worked in traffic engineering for over 30 years and has gained a broad experience in traffic engineering design, transportation planning and traffic control systems at a senior level. Andrew provides specialist advice on traffic sign layout and design and is a member of the Institute of Highway Engineers special interest group on Traffic Signs. Here he explains the importance of traffic signing and the lessons you need to learn about the design and regulations. 

Traffic signing is seen by many in the engineering community as simply, the finishing touches to a highway design. In reality they are far more than this; they are a primary element in the safe and efficient operation of a highway system. 

Many people forget that traffic signs cover not only vertical traffic signs and road markings but also traffic signals. Traffic signs ensure that the road user is faced with an unambiguous message that is aimed at reducing the risk of surprises when using the highway network.

In this day, a high proportion of drivers rely on satellite navigation devices when driving outside their known area, is there still a need for direction signs? Yes, there is. 

Such devices are not fool proof; while they can direct drivers through town centres when a valid bypass exists, they may not be fully up to date and, importantly, not all drivers own such a device. Until all of these issues are resolved, there is still a need for signs and they need to be designed; be readily understandable; not be visually intrusive whilst not being easily missed; and they must be consistent.

Historically, many Highway Authorities had their ‘signs expert’, unfortunately with budgetary constraints this is largely a thing of the past. The task of sign design is left to more junior members of the design team with limited resource to experienced support.

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions has been updated in 2016 and this together with the Traffic Sign Manual provides the necessary design guidance for highway and traffic engineers. It is important that designers with any responsibility for traffic sign design be familiar with the guidance so that they can make informed decisions in the design of their signing projects.

Andrew Thurston
Technical Director, Jacobs

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