“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” (Robert J Hanlon)
Question: When is a road sign not a road sign?
Answer: When it does not conform to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
This piece of legislation has evolved over the years and it defines precisely what each road sign should look like and what it means to the motorist. It is the highway engineers lexicon.
What this act does not do is to specify how the signs should be deployed individually and in combination. That is left to the discretion of the individual engineer. It also does not determine the consequences of a road user disobeying a road sign; that is defined in other legislation.
In an effort to avoid road sign anarchy the Department for Transport offers much guidance on the deployment and appearance of road signs. In effect it is the “Idiots Guide to Road Signs”.
So, with all that help and information available there should be little chance of getting it wrong? Well, not according to Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation. Let’s just attribute his examples of bad road signage to stupidity.
A yellow box junction is technically a road sign. Here’s one I photographed earlier:
Q: Is the box junction justified?
A: No. It is protecting a quiet, residential, cul-de-sac side street with passage for cycles. The amount of traffic entering and leaving is minimal. “Keep Clear” markings would be more appropriate.
Q: What is the other side of the box?
A: Stacking space for two (and a bit) cars and then traffic lights.
Q: Do many drivers stop in the box?
A: All the time. When the lights change to red, the third car from the lights invariably ends up with its back wheels in the box. Sometimes the fourth vehicle stops in the box as well. Two for the price of one!
Q: Why do they stop in the box?
A: (i) Because when you approach traffic lights you focus on the lights in case they change against you, and beyond the lights planning your exit; so your attention is ahead and distant, not down on the road surface and close. It’s a complex, high workload situation.
(ii) In order to be absolutely sure of not falling foul of the box junction, you would need to allow for the possibility of stopping short by increasing the gap between you and the car in front well before reaching the yellow box. This would require advance warning of the box junction, which there never is. It would be reasonable to anticipate a yellow box at a junction controlled by lights i.e. after the lights, but not immediately before traffic lights.
Q: Is there an enforcement camera on this junction?
A: You bet!
Q: Is it making money?
Q: Is this an example of malice or stupidity?
A: You decide.