Sign of the times: Readable roads

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 DOES THAT MEAN GIVE WAY OR YIELD? EuroRAP and EuroNCAP are calling for improvements in road signs and markings (pictured here) as vehicles will not be able to “read” inconsistent signage. Image: EURONCA ~ Supplied
Regardless of improvements to vehicle safety and technology a constant scourge remains for drivers to overcome - poor road signs and markings. New tech means that, like drivers, vehicles will not function well where markings and signs are worn out, inconsistent or confusing. European safety agencies are calling for "roads that cars can read".

New cars do more to protect life than vehicles built 10 years ago and by 2025 half of all vehicles in Europe will be able to read signs and road markings and react, or attempt to react, accordingly - but now the signage is not up to scratch.

That means putting an end to the different fonts, colours, sizes and shapes seen in even the most basic internationally standardised warnings such as “STOP” and “GIVE WAY”. It means standardising the width of white lines and the amount of light they reflect – and ensuring the edges of major roads are marked.


The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) and European Road Assessment Programme (Euro RAP) published its 'Roads that Cars can Read' report in November 2013 and it states that most travel (and road deaths) occur on roads that comprise only 10% of the Europe’s network.

Inadequate maintenance and differences in road markings and traffic signs are now a major obstacle to the effective use of technology in vehicles, such as lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. The agencies are calling for “connected cars” that can provide drivers with information on congestion, crashes and road and weather conditions. Future vehicles could communicate with each other and provide warnings, such as unsafe lane departure or risk of collision.

In the foreword to the report, Euro RAP chair John Dawson and Euro NCAP secretary-general Michiel van Ratingen state that that road crashes claimed 300 000 lives in the past decade.


Dawson said: “There needs to be a fundamental change in the discipline we apply to road infrastructure. Lane markings are now the ‘rails’ for self-steering vehicles. The safety standards of the rail and aviation industry need to be applied to major roads.”

Ratingen added: “We set demanding standards for 5-star cars. We must now move towards 5-star roads where the quality of road markings and signs are assured to work with modern vehicles.”

The report calls on the European Union, governments and automakers to respond to recommendations for common standards for road markings and traffic signs on major rural roads. The report also calls for an independent survey of Europe’s major roads to assess the scale of action needed to meet these standards.

The report has been welcomed by road users, roads and vehicle manufacturers and road safety organisations.

The report states: “Roads that are not regularly maintained cost many times more to repair and reconstruct (a lesson the South African government seems incapable of absorbing). Roads that are not properly maintained, marked and signed result in avoidable deaths, injury and damage. Roads that are unfit for purpose fail to provide the connectivity on which jobs, the economy and society depends.

“Assuring the quality of Europe’s roads must start with the network of greatest social and economic importance. It is unacceptable that this busy network on which so much travel and risk is concentrated should not meet basic standards.”


As for standardising road markings the report states: “EuroRAP and EuroNCAP believe that road markings on Europe’s roads should adopt a simple, memorable “150 x 150” standard already commonly in use.

“Lane and edge markings should be a consistent 150mm wide, and markings in the dry should reflect light at 150 millicandela.”

South Africa has a long way to go in terms of repairing and improving its road network or we’ll fall even further behind developing nations. Do you agree with the call to improve and standardise road markings and signs? Have you encountered poor or bizarre road signs in SA? Email us and we’ll publish your thoughts and images on Wheels24.