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Who Decides Where Road Signs Should Go?

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 18 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Signs Responsibility Local Highway

Most road signs are in sensible positions and give necessary advice and warnings. As a result, road-users do not have concerns about who put what sign where.

Occasionally, though, a road-user may wonder why a particular sign is in a certain location. Such a road sign may seem out of place and pointless. Or there may be so many signs clustered together, it’s impossible for a road-user to take note of them without stopping.

There are also times when a road-user comes across a hazard unexpectedly. There may have been no sign to warn of what lay ahead. In this instance, a road-user may wish to complain.

With any of these scenarios, it’s worth knowing who decides where road signs should go.

Motoring Organisations

Back in the early days of motoring, vehicles were often difficult to control. They lacked power and were relatively fragile. Unexpected bends, inclines and junctions could easily result in accidents and breakdowns.

The motoring organisations stepped in. The Automobile Association and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club erected warning signs in response to members’ requests.

The motoring organisations did not base their road signs on any common system. Politicians realised the value of signs, though. They saw the importance of placing them along every road. Well-positioned signs could prevent accidents and help traffic flow. Consequently, laws appeared that controlled road sign style and placement.

Responsibility

Modern responsibility for the position of road signs lies with local highway authorities and the Highways Agency. Local highway authorities are:

  • Metropolitan district councils
  • County councils
  • Unitary authorities
  • Transport for London
  • London boroughs

The Highways Agency controls all road signs on English motorways and trunk roads. The trunk roads include the A1, A3, A14, A303, A38, A47, A49 and A66. The Highways Agency has full details.

The Welsh Assembly Government has responsibility for placing road signs on Welsh motorways and trunk roads. Transport Scotland and the Northern Ireland Roads Service have similar responsibilities for their motorway and trunk road systems.

Local Highway Authorities

Any road-user who wants to know who is responsible for the location of signs on roads other than motorways or trunk routes may have to do some research. This is because there are 36 metropolitan district councils, 27 county councils and 56 unitary authorities in England alone. This is not counting the 32 London boroughs. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland also have numerous local highway authorities.

Making Contact

The best approach is to check a map that has local government boundaries. This establishes where responsibility lies for road sign placement in a given area. The next step is to phone the local government office and ask for the highways department.

Any road-user who speaks to an officer working in a highways department should not expect an immediate response to an enquiry. The decision to place or remove a road sign is usually that of a committee.

A road-user with concerns about local road signs may do well to enlist the help of a local councillor or MP. A committee is more likely to respond positively to an enquiry that has political support.

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Traffic signs:if two advanced warning signs are placed on the one pole, which hazard comes first?Do you read from the top down?If one waas to lay the pole flat, the inference is that the lower sign would be the first hazard. On destination boards is the top venue, the furthest away?
blackrat - 19-Oct-11 @ 1:20 PM
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