Standardised approach needed for road signs and markings

Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by James Luckhurst

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 06.55.57A report by EuroRAP and Euro NCAP suggests variations and differences in road markings and traffic signs are a “major obstacle to the effective use of technology in vehicles”.  The report, “Roads that Cars Can Read” says that by 2025 half of the cars on Europe’s roads will be capable of “reading” signs and markings, and suggests that vehicles, like drivers, will not function properly where road markings and signs are worn out, inconsistent or confusing.  It also says that this means putting an end to the different fonts, colours, sizes and shapes that are seen in “even the most basic, internationally standardised safety signs such as ‘stop’ and ‘give way'”.

The report also says this means standardising the width of white lines and the amount of light they reflect – and ensuring the edges of major roads are marked.  The report challenges the EU, governments and stakeholders to respond to the recommendations of the working party of cross-industry experts who have proposed adopting clear, common standards for road markings and traffic signs on major rural roads which many countries have adopted. It also calls for an independent survey of Europe’s major roads to assess the scale of action needed to meet these standards.

Roads that Cars can Read recommends that the roads and motor industries should learn to work on new designs together by focusing on helping drivers with two early technologies now offered in new cars, “Lane Support” and “Speed Alert”. Lane Support reads lane markings to work out the position of the vehicle within the lane and steers drifting vehicles back on path, a common origin of crashes. “Speed Alert” allows drivers to choose warnings when exceeding posted roadside speed limits.

A representative of Euro NCAP said: “The roadsides of Europe are littered with flowers and shrines. More than a quarter of road deaths involve running off the road. ‘Lane Support’ gives the driver a warning that’s as physical as hitting a rumble strip on the road. It is estimated more than 2,000 European deaths annually can be prevented with this technology.”

“The consequences of missing a change of speed limit have become more serious as more nations have adopted a points system and enforce limits rigorously. The ‘Speed Alert’ system protects the drivers from missing a speed sign, not least when limits chop and change.”

In launching the report, EuroRAP chairman John 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.”  Michiel van 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.”