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Road users' confusion about road signs and markings – Survey


Key Findings:

  • Just 5% of Irish road users fully understand the meaning of all road markings
  • Just 25% know the meaning of all road warning signs
  • 83% had difficulty interpreting the meaning of signs conveying information like speed limits
  • Men have a greater understanding of road signage than women but both are equally poor with road markings
  • Despite commonly held perceptions about young people those aged 18-24 are the most knowledgeable when it comes to regulatory traffic signs

Ireland, 16th December, 2010

Just 5% of Irish road users understand the meaning of important road markings like continuous white lines. This is one of the findings contained in a new report commissioned by Zurich. The report, the Road Signs and Markings Driver Awareness Report, examines levels of knowledge and understanding among road users of road signs and markings. Its findings reveal very low levels of understanding of certain signs and markings conveying important information governing road use in Ireland. The majority of those surveyed (82%) felt that not enough is being done to educate people on road signage and markings.

Although the majority of signage was correctly identified by respondents, among the signs that caused difficulty was the dangerous corner sign which 48% incorrectly identified as indicating a left turn. Road markings however proved the most problematic with respondents having difficulty understanding the meaning of continuous white lines, identifying locations where they might find a triangle painted on the road and the meaning of Zig-Zag lines at a zebra crossing.

Conor Brennan, Director of Broker Distribution, from Zurich said, "While we were pleased to find high levels of understanding of a lot of the important signs and markings on Irish roads, the research does raise concerns about overall levels of knowledge among road users. The fact that some drivers do not know what road markings like continuous white lines mean is particularly concerning as these road markings play a crucial role in driver safety when it comes to overtaking and parking. We would also echo the sentiments of the 82% of respondents who felt that more needs to be done to educate people on road signage and markings".

The survey findings also reveal major differences between respondents' actual awareness of road signs and markings and the knowledge they perceive themselves to have. Of those who rated their knowledge of regulatory traffic signs* as excellent, nearly a third (32%) got at least one of the regulatory sign related questions incorrect. Those that felt they had an excellent knowledge of warning signs were also overly optimistic with only a third (33%) answering all questions correctly. When it comes to road markings only 8% of those who rated themselves as having a good knowledge answered all questions correctly.

Road users surveyed in the Midlands performed slightly better than those in other areas, showing more awareness of road signs and markings across regulatory traffic and warning traffic signs than those surveyed in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Cork drivers performed the worst when it came to regulatory traffic signs and Waterford had the lowest awareness of warning traffic signs out of all the urban centres surveyed. Although knowledge of information signs was low across all urban centres, Limerick drivers did the best in this category.

On a lighter note, the survey results also add to the age old driving skills rivalry between the sexes with men faring better than women when tested on road signs and markings. Across the road sign groups of regulatory traffic signs (62%/58%), warning traffic signs (31%/21%) and sign related information (20%/15%), men consistently performed better when questioned on signs. Men and women are only equal when it comes to both groups poor awareness of road markings. Despite commonly held perceptions about young people and road safety, the findings also revealed that those aged 18-24 were the most knowledgeable when it came to regulatory traffic signs with 71% correctly answering all these questions.

Commenting on the findings, Susan Gray, founder of Parc Road Safety Group said, "We in PARC Road Safety Group would appeal to all drivers to acquaint themselves with the rules of the road because it only takes one mistake - for a tragic crash to happen. We all must take responsibility and help reduce totally preventable deaths and injuries on our roads".

To download the Zurich Road Safety Report click here

* The survey tested people on a number of categories of road signs and markings including regulatory traffic signs which show the course a driver must follow and an action they are required to take or forbidden to take, warning traffic signs which warn road users of a hazard ahead and sign related information showing directions and the location of services.