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Information Overload!

Does this sound familiar? I’m doing the Mum’s Taxi thing, picking kids off and running them down to after-school activities like the typical parent these days. It might not be a long drive, but the amount of signage that I go past is fairly large.

You’ve got the school speed limit sign complete with the times that these apply. You’ve got a roundabout or two to go through with all the signs associated with those (at least they’re not multi-lane roundabouts). There are a handful of Give Way signs on the way, a couple of Children Crossing signs, a No Parking sign outside the school and some Bus Stop signs on the way to the activities. I’m lucky that the route I use doesn’t involve traffic lights with all the umpteen different signs that are involved there depending on the lane that you want to go to. Signs everywhere – flashing, in some cases.

But those aren’t the only signs I see. Thanks to an acute outbreak of road works by my local council, I’m coming across the “road works” signs (once known as Men At Work signs), plus road cones and people in high-viz vests putting up bright coloured barriers to stop people driving/walking/biking into the hole they’re trying to dig.

On top of all this, you’ve got all the advertising material and the signage to tell you that you have actually reached the gym or wherever you need to go. Signs, signs, signs. And in a few places, you’ve got the signs for cyclists and pedestrians into the bargain.

It doesn’t get much better once you get into the countryside. Not only do you get the boards telling you that you’ve got XXX km to go until you get to the city where Grandma lives and signs telling you to watch out for horses/wombats/strong crosswinds/railway crossings, you also get the signs telling you about the intersections you can expect ahead of you. These include my candidate for most pointless sign: the one about falling rocks. OK, it’s kind of handy to know that there might be a rock on the road ahead of me, but you can get debris on the road anywhere, so I’m usually scanning the road for hazards. But if a rock falls when I’m driving through the area, I never know what I can really do about that. Second on my list of “statements of the blinking obvious” is the one about a railway crossing ahead complete with “prepare to stop” emblazoned on it. Really, I’m going to drive out into the middle of the intersection in front of an oncoming train without that sign, aren’t I?

Signs might be all very well and good, and they do serve a useful purpose. However, if we are continually confronted by signs left, right and centre (and let’s not even start on the information provided by in-car information systems at the same time), we become blasé about them and start tuning them out.  It certainly doesn’t help when businesses decide to make their signs look rather like road signs.  Sometimes, the powers that be up the ante by adding brighter colours and flashing lights. But then everyone starts doing it.  And then we tune out the new level of attention-grabbing signage and the cycle continues.

Road Signs

I can just remember when the local fire engine had just one or maybe two red lights and a siren. Now, every emergency vehicle seems to flash like a Christmas tree on steroids and sounds like it’s doubled the decibel level of the sirens just to cut through all the other flashing lights and sounds around us. Yes, it’s important to see emergency vehicles, but is it really necessary to go to these levels? Just think how quickly people respond when they see those little red and blue lights mounted discreetly on a Holden Commodore letting them know that they’ve just lead-footed it past an unmarked police car…

I sometimes wonder if the information overload actually contributes to road safety rather than addressing it. I’m not alone in thinking this. There are Austroads research publications about this and there have been those campaigns about the dangers of distracted driving. However, the billboards reminding us not to drive distracted are themselves distractions…

15 comments

  1. Barb Rab says:

    I agree 100% – I travel between Sydney and Canberra every week for work and find the incredible number of signs very distracting; especialy the new LED ones that hand over the highway. The oversize billboards with paragraphs about how dangerous it is to drive quickly or when you’re tired are particularly distracting and annoying. I long for the days when the highways were free of clutter but I suppose it’s s ‘sign of the times’!

    June 27th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  2. David says:

    Nice one, Barb!

    June 28th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

  3. Errol Morris says:

    Visual pollution is a major contributing factor to the road toll. This is absolute fact but the government doesn’t want you to know that. The ‘road toll’ itself would be lowered if it wasn’t for the silly signage. Road works are getting pretty silly too. For example, the signs warning one to slow to a crawl due to road works ahead…250 metres up a little used side road. Most drivers never see the road works because they are hidden well off the road and rarely is there any activity actually involving the road. Recently, the local council placed signs advising drivers to slow to 40kph due to a tractor mowing…not the roadside, but a park up a side street well away from the main road with its current speed limit of 60kph already in place. The park is actually at my back fence and the council employee who I know well, told me that it is just another stupid government regulation.

    June 27th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

  4. Damon says:

    Well, all you need is to miss one…….. Great revenue raiser for Police & Councils !

    June 27th, 2013 at 4:22 pm

  5. LL says:

    Read this again……….. Does this sound familiar? I’m doing the Mum’s Taxi thing, picking kids off and running them down to after-school activities like the typical parent these days.

    “picking kids off” …… are you a sniper??

    “and running them down” … how many kids to you & “the typical parent” kill every day??
    Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

    June 27th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

  6. David says:

    Hmm. Freudian slip from Megan here!!

    June 28th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

  7. Megan says:

    Sure was a Freudian slip… Teacher Only day at school and had the kids doing their vulture impressions – hovering and circling while asking “Have you finished with the computer yet, Mum? When will you be finished? Can I…? Can I…? Can I…?” Need I say more?

    July 1st, 2013 at 7:58 am

  8. Jeff says:

    About signs, At night the reflection of modern head lights on reflective signs causes temporally blindness, real safety hazard. Jeff

    June 27th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

  9. Barry Arnold says:

    Perhaps the question should be asked, if speed kills, why isn’t every jet pilot dead. What kills is inattention, inexperience and a total lack of awareness of the skills required to get out of trouble. Compare the difficulty in obtaining a pilots licence and a drivers licence. Pilots are medically checked regularly, have to maintain a level of currency, have to pass a test at least every two years (more frequently as the standard of licence rises). Pilots are trained and examined on how to recover from emergency situations, have to pass written exams on the technicalities of the aircraft, legislation, operating procedures and navigation. AND in the pilots environment, there are no idiots trying to kill him, and there are support structures in place if he is in trouble. To drive a car in a very hostile environment, the driver has to prove he can make a three point turn and park a car as well as not break any rules on the test. After passing he can forget all that, he will never be tested again. (Most motorists I see forget it very quickly and
    I am on the road all day)

    June 27th, 2013 at 6:16 pm

  10. Graham says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I recently drove from Brisbane to Hervey Bay and was astonished to see large signs which, in order to prevent boredom, actually asked a quize question. A few kilometers on was another sign displaying the answer???? HELLO!!!!!! What moron came up with this idea?????? I thought that the road toll was too high mainly because drivers were distracted or took their attention away from their task of driving…. And this is just another in a long list of complaints regarding distractions whilst driving….

    June 27th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

  11. Robert Clark says:

    I agree whole heartedly, all the myriad of signage is a total distraction, especally when you are in a strange location,, and looking trying to find a spefic address, (store, or such like).
    There is one place though that does need a sign, and that is the intersection of Evans Rd onto Hall Rd, in the suburb of Casey. There is no signage untill 1mtr before the T intersection, and that is obscured by a gum tree. At night, any driver not knowing the road could come to a very sticky end.

    June 28th, 2013 at 7:38 am

  12. robert whyte says:

    DROWSEY DRIVER DIE.
    Yes and low speed limits are responsible.
    Nobody is drowsey on an autobahn.

    June 28th, 2013 at 8:11 am

  13. Trevor JAMES says:

    The one that really gets me is a sign that says “Hazard Ahead” without any description. I found out the hard way that it was a misalignment between the end of a bridge and the following road leading to a drop of about 100mm. I really felt that – but what use was the sign?

    June 28th, 2013 at 12:45 pm

  14. Peter says:

    Speaking of signs, I would like to start a poll on one of my favorite pet peeves.
    What does a roundabout sign mean?
    Just about every time I ask this question, the answer is (IMHO) incorrect.
    Just to be clear ….I’m not interested in all of that multiple lane and indicating stuff….just the basics.
    What do you do when you see the sign and all the way up to entering the roundabout?
    Maybe Megan could start the ball rolling?
    ……
    Oh and that ‘falling rocks’ sign. I always used to wonder about that too. Was I meant to look up into the sky as I was driving in case one fell on me?
    Then about 25 years ago I was passenger with a friend in Colorado (they have quite a few of those signs over there) when we came around a corner on a 6 lane highway and hit a rock that had just fallen that was the bigger than a football.
    We pulled over immediately and even though the rock was now considerably smaller it claimed 3 more cars before I managed to get it off the road.
    The car (Porsche 924) handled incredibly well after the impact even though it had totaled both drivers side tires AND wheels. The first wheel looked like an old fashioned tin can that had been opened 350 of its 360 degrees.

    June 28th, 2013 at 1:17 pm

  15. Dave Conole says:

    Hi Peter: from the NSW Road Legislation (http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/viewtop/inforce/subordleg+179+2008+fn+0+N)
    Part 9 Roundabouts

    109 What is a roundabout

    A roundabout is an intersection:

    (a) with either:

    (i) one or more marked lanes, all of which are for the use of vehicles travelling in the same direction around a central traffic island, or

    (ii) room for 1 or more lines of traffic travelling in the same direction around a central traffic island, and

    (b) with or without a roundabout sign at each entrance.

    Note 1. Intersection, marked lane, traffic and traffic island are defined in the Dictionary.

    Note 2. Rule 322 (3) and (4) deal with the meaning of a traffic sign at a place.

    Roundabout sign

    110 Meaning of halfway around a roundabout

    A driver leaves a roundabout halfway around the roundabout if the driver leaves the roundabout on a road that is straight ahead, or substantially straight ahead, from the road on which the driver enters the roundabout.

    111 Entering a roundabout from a multi-lane road or a road with 2 or more lines of traffic travelling in the same direction

    (1) A driver entering a roundabout from a multi-lane road, or a road with room for 2 or more lines of traffic (other than motor bikes, bicycles, motorised wheelchairs or animals) travelling in the same direction as the driver, must enter the roundabout in accordance with this rule.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Multi-lane road is defined in the Dictionary.

    (2) If the driver is to leave the roundabout less than halfway around it, the driver must enter the roundabout from the left marked lane or, if the road is not a multi-lane road, as near as practicable to the left side of the road.

    Note. Marked lane is defined in the Dictionary.

    Example.

    Example 1

    Leaving a roundabout less than halfway around it

    (3) If the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it, the driver must enter the roundabout from the right marked lane or, if the road is not a multi-lane road, from the left of, parallel to, and as near as practicable to, the dividing line or median strip.

    Example.

    Example 2

    Leaving a roundabout more than halfway around it

    (4) If the driver is to leave the roundabout halfway around it, the driver may enter the roundabout from any marked lane or, if the road is not a multi-lane road, anywhere on the part of the road on which vehicles travelling in the same direction as the driver may travel.

    Example.

    Example 3

    Leaving a roundabout halfway around it

    (5) Despite subrules (2) to (4), if the driver is entering the roundabout from a marked lane and there are traffic lane arrows applying to the lane, the driver must:

    (a) if the arrows indicate a single direction—drive in that direction after entering the roundabout, or

    (b) if the arrows indicate 2 or more directions—drive in one of those directions after entering the roundabout.

    Note. Traffic lane arrows is defined in the Dictionary.

    Examples.

    Example 4

    Roundabout with 3 entry points

    Example 5

    Roundabout with 5 entry points

    Note 1 for examples 4 and 5. Rule 116 requires a driver to obey traffic lane arrows when driving in or leaving a roundabout.

    Note 2 for examples 4 and 5. The rules in Part 11 about driving in marked lanes, and moving from one marked lane or line of traffic, apply to a driver driving in a roundabout—see rules 146 to 148.

    (6) Subrule (3) does not apply to the rider of a bicycle or animal.

    Note. Bicycle is defined in the Dictionary.

    (7) Subrule (5) does not apply to the rider of a bicycle or animal if the rider is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

    (8) Despite subrule (2), a driver may approach and enter the roundabout from the marked lane next to the left lane as well as, or instead of, the left lane if:

    (a) the driver’s vehicle, together with any load or projection, is 7.5 metres long, or longer, and

    (b) the vehicle displays a do not overtake turning vehicle sign, and

    (c) any part of the vehicle is within 50 metres of the nearest point of the roundabout, and

    (d) it is not practicable for the driver to leave the roundabout less than halfway around it from within the left lane, and

    (e) the driver can safely occupy the next marked lane and can safely leave the roundabout less than halfway around it by occupying the next marked lane, or both lanes.

    (9) Despite subrule (3), a driver may approach and enter the roundabout from the marked lane next to the right lane as well as, or instead of, the right lane if:

    (a) the driver’s vehicle, together with any load or projection, is 7.5 metres long, or longer, and

    (b) the vehicle displays a do not overtake turning vehicle sign, and

    (c) any part of the vehicle is within 50 metres of the nearest point of the roundabout, and

    (d) it is not practicable for the driver to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it from within the right lane, and

    (e) the driver can safely occupy the next marked lane and can safely leave the roundabout more than halfway around it by occupying the next marked lane, or both lanes.

    (10) In this rule:

    left lane means:

    (a) the marked lane nearest to the far left side of the road, or

    (b) if there is an obstruction (for example, a parked car or roadworks) in that marked lane—the marked lane nearest to that marked lane that is not obstructed.

    marked lane, for a driver, does not include a special purpose lane in which the driver is not permitted to drive.

    right lane means:

    (a) the marked lane nearest to the dividing line or median strip on the road, or

    (b) if there is an obstruction (for example, a parked car or roadworks) in that marked lane—the marked lane nearest to that marked lane that is not obstructed.

    112 Giving a left change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

    (1) This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if:

    (a) the driver is to leave the roundabout at the first exit after entering the roundabout, and

    (b) the exit is less than halfway around the roundabout.

    (2) Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a left change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Left change of direction signal is defined in the Dictionary.

    (3) The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal until the driver has left the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    (4) This rule does not apply to a driver if the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights.

    Note. Driver’s vehicle is defined in the Dictionary.

    113 Giving a right change of direction signal when entering a roundabout

    (1) This rule applies to a driver entering a roundabout if the driver is to leave the roundabout more than halfway around it.

    (2) Before entering the roundabout, the driver must give a right change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Right change of direction signal is defined in the Dictionary.

    (3) The driver must continue to give the change of direction signal while the driver is driving in the roundabout, unless:

    (a) the driver is changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, or

    (b) the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights, or

    (c) the driver is about to leave the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note 1. Driver’s vehicle and marked lane are defined in the Dictionary.

    Note 2. Rule 117 deals with giving change of direction signals before changing marked lanes, or entering another line of traffic, in a roundabout.

    Note 3. Rule 118 requires a driver, if practicable, to give a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout.

    114 Giving way when entering or driving in a roundabout

    (1) A driver entering a roundabout must give way to:

    (a) any vehicle in the roundabout, and

    (b) a tram that is entering or approaching the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note 1. Tram is defined in the Dictionary.

    Note 2. For this rule, give way means the driver must slow down and, if necessary, stop to avoid a collision—see the definition in the Dictionary.

    (2) A driver driving in a roundabout must give way to a tram that is in, entering or approaching the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    (3) In this rule:

    tram includes a bus travelling along tram tracks.

    Note 1. Bus and travelling along tram tracks are defined in the Dictionary.

    Note 2. For the give way rules applying to a driver moving from one marked lane or line of traffic to another marked lane or line of traffic, see rule 148.

    115 Driving in a roundabout to the left of the central traffic island

    (1) A driver driving in a roundabout must drive:

    (a) to the left of the central traffic island in the roundabout, or

    (b) if subrule (2) applies to the driver—on the edge of the central traffic island, to the left of the centre of the island, or

    (c) if subrule (3) applies to the driver—over the central traffic island, to the left of the centre of the island.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Traffic island is defined in the Dictionary.

    (2) This subrule applies to a driver if:

    (a) the driver’s vehicle is too large to drive in the roundabout without driving on the edge of the central traffic island, and

    (b) the driver can safely drive on the edge of the central traffic island.

    Note. Driver’s vehicle is defined in the Dictionary.

    (3) This subrule applies to a driver if:

    (a) the driver’s vehicle is too large to drive in the roundabout without driving over the central traffic island, and

    (b) the central traffic island is designed to allow a vehicle of that kind to be driven over it.

    116 Obeying traffic lane arrows when driving in or leaving a roundabout

    If a driver is driving in a marked lane in a roundabout and there are traffic lane arrows applying to the lane, the driver must:

    (a) if the arrows indicate a single direction—drive in or leave the roundabout in that direction, or

    (b) if the arrows indicate 2 or more directions—drive in or leave the roundabout in one of those directions.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Marked lane and traffic lane arrows are defined in the Dictionary.

    117 Giving a change of direction signal when changing marked lanes or lines of traffic in a roundabout

    (1) A driver driving in a roundabout must give a left change of direction signal before the driver changes marked lanes to the left, or enters a part of the roundabout where there is room for another line of traffic to the left, in the roundabout, unless the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Driver’s vehicle and left change of direction signal are defined in the Dictionary.

    (2) A driver driving in a roundabout must give a right change of direction signal before the driver changes marked lanes to the right, or enters a part of the roundabout where there is room for another line of traffic to the right, in the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Right change of direction signal is defined in the Dictionary.

    118 Giving a left change of direction signal when leaving a roundabout

    (1) If practicable, a driver driving in a roundabout must give a left change of direction signal when leaving the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note. Left change of direction signal is defined in the Dictionary.

    (2) The driver must stop giving the change of direction signal as soon as the driver has left the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    (3) This rule does not apply to a driver if the driver’s vehicle is not fitted with direction indicator lights.

    Note 1. Driver’s vehicle is defined in the Dictionary.

    Note 2. The rules in Part 11 about driving in marked lanes and moving from one marked lane or line of traffic to another marked lane or line of traffic apply to a driver leaving a roundabout—see rules 146 to 148.

    119 Giving way by the rider of a bicycle or animal to a vehicle leaving a roundabout

    The rider of a bicycle or animal who is riding in the far left marked lane of a roundabout with 2 or more marked lanes, or the far left line of traffic in a roundabout with room for 2 or more lines of traffic (other than motor bikes, bicycles, motorised wheelchairs or animals), must give way to any vehicle leaving the roundabout.

    Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

    Note 1. Bicycle and marked lane are defined in the Dictionary, and vehicle is defined in rule 15.

    Note 2. For this rule, give way means the rider must slow down and, if necessary, stop to avoid a collision—see the definition in the Dictionary.

    June 28th, 2013 at 2:24 pm