Research completed by oil company Castrol in 2012, showed that the British Public have so little knowledge of the Highway Code, two thirds of people are confused by basic road signs on a daily basis.

The study found that one in three drivers admit they get so bemused, they simply follow the car in front when they are unsure what to do. Despite such understanding being an essential part of the modern driving test, more than half of us simply ignore signs.

Three percent of users said their confusion over road signs led them to have accidents – that’s the equivalent of over 1.3 million incidents.

The report stated ‘When shown ‘Give Way’ road signs, half did not know what it meant.’

A Brief History of British Road Signs:

The first used road signs in Britain were brought in by the Romans.They marked off road distances at 1000 paces, (about one mile) with stones called milliaries.

1648: A law was passed to ensure that each parish place guideposts at its crossroads.

1773: After the General Turnpike Act was passed these signs became more common.

1896:  Heralded the ear of the motor car arrived and in 1903 The Motor Car Act made local authorities responsible for placing certain warning and prohibitory signs.

1921: The numbering of roads was introduced.

1965: Work began on converting the British system to be more in line with European – with messages expressed in symbols. This is the basic system still used today.

Road Signs

Between January and March 2013, there were 329.055 theory tests conducted in the UK. The pass rate for these was 52.3 percent. 7.2 percent lower than in the same period of 2012.

This means that just under half of all people taking it, are failing their theory test .

Getting to know the Road Signs in the Highway Code, can seem a bit of a daunting task as a new learner, but it need not be that way when you take a few things into consideration.

Preparation is a key factor in learning and passing your test.

Top Tips

1) Take 15 minutes every day to read through the pages of the Traffic signs on the Highway Code.

2) Increase your observation skills by becoming aware of the signs around you as you are out and about.

3) Quiz your family/friends as they drive – do they know the traffic signs as they come upon them when driving. Take the highway code out with you and then you can check if they get it right or wrong. This way everyone can brush up on their learning.

4) When you lay in the bath, take the highway code in with you for a little relaxed educational reading.

5) You can even check how traffic responds to the instructions given by the signs. Attempt to work out what instructions they are being given at junctions,even if it is unclear to you initially. Then get online, check out your app, or open the book up to see if you were right.

A great place in starting to learn the traffic signs of our roads and in the Highway Code, is to identify what the basic shapes and colours mean. The majority of traffic signs have been developed to be pictorial, to ensure everyone understands their meaning and standardisation has been used to make the traffic signs easily identifiable.

A Pass 4 U can supply all your educational literature needs where your driver learning is concerned:

Offering a Comprehensive Theory Test Pack which covers all aspects and when used correctly will prepare you for your test. The contents include:

1) 29 mock test papers
2) Highway Code
3) Knowing your traffic signs
4) The official DSA cd-rom for the multiple choice and hazard perception tests.

Complete Package Price £31

Or we can supply the following books and cd-roms individually.

The Highway Code £2.50
Know Your Traffic Signs £4.00
Driving the Essential Skills £12.99
The Complete Theory Test Cd-Rom £20

All these items can be purchased from your instructor or alternatively call us direct on 08458 121 007.

Types of Road Signs

1) In the UK a circular sign with a red border alerts drivers that there may be a prohibitory sign ahead, that they are being given an order not to do something.

2) Signs with blue circles but no red border mostly give positive instruction.

3) Triangle signs give road users a ‘warning’

4) Direction Signs – Mostly rectangular.

5) Signs on motorways have blue backgrounds.

6) Signs on primary routes – green backgrounds.

7) Information signs are all rectangular.

How do road signs assist the driver?

There are many traffic signs on the roads and it can be very daunting when you are learning to drive but the consequences of not knowing your signs can be potentially life threatening.

In an unfamiliar area it is the traffic signs that provides the familiarity, enabling a driver to keep heading in the right direction. Warning signs let the driver know of any potential hazards and where there has been a history of problems. Orders signs reminding us what we can and cannot do. Traffic lights are there to deal with major junctions and pedestrian crossings.

Test Yourself with this mini-quiz

Find the road signs for:

Signs giving orders

1) No Motor Vehicles
2) No overtaking
3) No right turn

Positive Instruction signs

1) End of minimum speed
2) Vehicles may pass either side to reach same destination
3) Mini – roundabout (roundabout circulation-give way to vehicles from the immediate right.)

Warning Signs

1) Cross Roads
2) Road narrows on both sides
3) Uneven road

Other directional signs

1) What colour is the sign for a Zoo and mainly tourist attractions?
2) What colour are the signs showing emergency diversion routes for motorways and other main traffic roads?
3) What colour background do signs on motorways have?
4) What colour is the sign for a Zoo and mainly tourist attractions?
5) What colour are the signs showing emergency diversion routes for motorways and other main traffic roads?
6) What colour background do signs on motorways have?

We’ve all encountered finding ourselves a touch bewildered at times, when driving through road works at all the signs we come across but with knowledge and understanding road users can swiftly and adeptly adapt to the road conditions and the signs upon it.

The question to ask yourself now is, after all your studying and learning “do you feel a little more confident about being able to understand the signs of the road and trust in them as a guide to assist you as a proficient driver, travelling on both long and short journeys?”

Image Source: Thomas Guest / Flickr – Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons 2.0