Friday, January 20, 2012

Read the signs

In 2009/10 there was a brief outcry in the UK about the amount of unnecessary road signs on British roads.  The consumer group called Civic Choice submitted information that there were tens of thousands of excess road signs and that too many signs were confusing and distracting.  

The AA results of a survey can be found here and the Campaign for Plain English also supported some of the findings.

I think this problem has ‘gone global’, well at least ‘gone European’ OK maybe just ‘gone Portuguese’.  There is certainly a road sign disease spreading on the IC8, one of the major highways in Central Portugal.  This disease seems to have reached its peak in the area between the turn off for the IC3 and Castanheira de Pera.  The disease is spreading, the spores of signs scattering along the roadside and new signs growing all the time.
In this short distance, it takes just 10 mins to drive, it has been reported to me that there are a whopping 400 plus signs.  I tried to count them recently, I gave up at 234, it got too confusing...had I counted that one before, does it count if it is not on the road but visible from the road etc etc... 

Needless to say, there are plenty of signs, all telling the driver to slow down, turn right, put lights on, turn lights off, I could go on, but this short (and possibly the most boring bit of film ever) video will show you just one small section (sorry, camera on it's side when I took this, but you get the idea).

So, are the signs useful or does someone high up in local government own a sign making business on the side?  Disclaimer - this is a joke by the way, I certainly am not suggesting that this is the case and no one should assume that this is the case. In my opinion, there are just too many signs, each unnecessary one disfigures the landscape just a little bit more, but I do hate to get all preachy about this! 

But, with Portugal having one of the worst road accident death rates in Europe - twice as many people are killed in their cars in Portugal than in Italy, per head of population, and four times as many as in the UK – maybe these signs perform a useful function, maybe Portuguese drivers need the extra help, the added stimulation to keep your mind focused?  Maybe looking at the pretty signs all shinny and bright help to punctuate a drive across country with lively way-points and stimulate the mind into thinking ‘I must slow down, I must turn left’ just maybe we'd be lost without them?

In the end I’m just not sure, but 400 plus signs on a section of road that takes less than 10 mins to drive is surely just a little over the top?

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