Road Safety News

Road sign changes come into effect

Monday 18th April 2016

The removal of the requirement to place repeat speed limit signs is one of a raft of changes in new legislation which came into force across Britain last week.

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 took effect on 22 April and replace those set in 2002. The new legislation follows a consultation on the issue which received 140 responses from 55 local authorities across Great Britain.

Under the new legislation, local authorities can now make their own decisions on how many speed limit signs are needed so that drivers know what limits apply.

This move has been met with a negative reaction from the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD), which says this can “only result in multiple signing standards, the creation of real danger, genuine confusion and the criminalisation of swathes of the motoring public”.

The Government says the new regulations give councils the powers to ‘tear down pointless road signs’, on the back of figures which show that between 1993 and 2013 the number of road signs in England increased by 83% to 4.57m.

The new regulations also allow councils to install new eye-level cycle traffic lights to make busy junctions easier and safer for cyclists, following ‘successful trials’ of the concept.

Other changes include:

  • A requirement for new road signs to carry imperial and metric measurements for height, width and length limits.
  • The removal of the need for a Traffic Regulation Order for unrestricted parking bays.
  • Signs must be retroreflective if street lighting is switched off during part of the hours of darkness.
  • Directions that apply to the mounting and backing of permanent signs will also apply to portable and temporary variable message signs.
  • The inclusion of the tunnel restriction code sign in the new Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.

Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: “Road signs should only be installed on our roads when they are essential. Our common-sense reforms will help get rid of pointless signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers.

“These new rules will also save £30m in taxpayers’ cash by 2020, leaving drivers with just the signs they need to travel safely.”

Despite welcoming the move to reduce the number of unnecessary signs, the RAC has expressed concern over the removal of speed limit repeater signs.

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “Signage is at its most effective when it’s well designed and used in just the right location – and that location is rarely one that is surrounded by a plethora of other signs. A move to de–clutter our roadsides therefore makes a lot of practical, as well as economic sense, and will be welcomed by the 63% of motorists we spoke to that said our roads are too full of unnecessary signage.
“While responsibility for local signage should rest with councils, we do not believe the option of axing small speed limit repeater signs makes much sense. All road users benefit from regular reminders of the speed limit, especially on roads where the limit is not immediately obvious."


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Our local village has adopted the 20mph speed limit today. Four new signs, two at each end of the 1.5 mile stretch. No warning that the limit has changed, no repeaters, nothing. Wonder how long it will take the locals to spot that? It was my 15 year old who noticed, not me the driver of over 30 years. Shocked? When did you really last look at every speed limit on your everyday route. Really?
Alexandra Hunt, Grayshott, Surrey

Agree (7) | Disagree (1)

With speed limits changing so frequently can everybody honestly say they can ALWAYS remember the last limit sign they saw? We need reminders. There are a lot of other signs that can go.
Tony Bowden. Rock, Wadebridge, Cornwall

Agree (29) | Disagree (2)

What is long overdue is metrication of road signage so as to enter the modern world by adopting the world standard. The current mishmash is confusing and is potentially dangerous. Only in Britain!

Agree (10) | Disagree (28)

I don't know what the fuss is all about. The TSRGD 2002 didn't specify how many repeater signs should be used. And since 2011, local authorities have only been required to place at least ONE repeater sign. Have LAs been stripping our repeater signs since?


Why? Because they still have a duty to clearly sign their speed limits. And guidance, in the form of the Traffic Signs Manual, has given pretty clear advice on how to do that.
The TSRGD 2016 gives LAs the freedom to put up signs for clarity not merely for conformity.

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

So if a local authority decides to exercise its new found discretion and doesn't put repeater signs (where they would have been conmpulsory) the limit enforceable? If so, doesn't it provide the perfect defence? "Sorry your honour, there were street lights, how was I supposed to know it was 20?".

We can't rely on Local Authorities getting it right everytime...speed limits and signage needs to be clear cut and nationally implemented.
Martin Evans, Bristol

Agree (33) | Disagree (2)

I hope the regulations and subsequently the Manual will recognise the different requirements of urban and rural areas. In the countryside and small villages, where there is no street lighting and hedges often grow to obscure road signs, repeater signs and road markings (and VASS)are often essential for road safety - especially in small villages where speed limits are not self-evident.
Roger Daniels, Burrington, North Somerset

Agree (18) | Disagree (1)

Read the article by Joe Dunn in the Telegraph motoring section last weekend 23rd April and there is a suggestion that the new Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions unveiled last week will cause issues as the Traffic Signs manual has yet to be brought up to reflect this new move.

We all want to reduce clutter but let's look first at signs that really are obsolete. A traffic engineer said to me over 30 years ago that a road sign was something that someone would drive into, a drunk would swing from and a yob would deface. The idea behind all this is not the speed issue but the saving of expenses in maintaining unecessary signs so the less we have the more money for real issues.
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (5) | Disagree (12)

Will. I am afraid you are wrong on several counts.

The change is actually that where a local speed limit is set then it is at the Traffic Authority's discretion as to how and whether repeater signs are used. Indeed that change is what this article references.

Since 2011 20mph repeater signs and carriageway roundels have been classed as "Traffic Calming Devices" and can be used in conjunction with physical calming devices. There needs to be a minimum of just one physical device in a 20mph zone.

If a 20mph limit has any physical traffic calming then it should be signed as a zone.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (4) | Disagree (13)

Street lights mean 30 so will not be repeated. It has been illegal for a highways authority to repeat a 30 on roads which are street lit, I'm not sure how this legislation change will affect this point. If local residents have asked for street lighting to be removed, that street or village will need to have the 30 repeater signs. A road without street lights and with no signage to tell you otherwise will be a National Speed Limit road. It is illegal for a highways authority to repeat a N.S.L., just as with the 30, unless there are street lights in which case repeaters will be needed to show that the speed limit is not 30.

If the speed limit is anything other than N.S.L. or 30 it must be repeated. The exception to this is the 20 Zone which must be designed to be 'self-governing' by the use of regular traffic calming features, such as mini roundabouts, speed humps and tables, pinch points, chicanes... 20 limits must be repeated but will not necessarily have traffic calming.
Will R. Birmingham

Agree (18) | Disagree (6)

Without repeater signs then all it takes is one 30mph sign to be damaged/lost/stolen and the entire stretch suddenly appears to have the limit of the preceding stretch, whether that's a NSL leading into an identical 50mph stretch, 50 into a 40 or whatever.
Rod Jones, 50's Nifty in Blaenau Gwent

Agree (53) | Disagree (4)

The reality of the situation is that too high a proportion of motorists drive around without any interest in the prevailing speed limit - or much else for that matter. Having tunnel vision, their eyes do not stray beyond a forward path of visibility, no wider than the width of their vehicle, so any signs and more importantly, other road users, are not seen unless and until they're immediately in front of them - hence another collision in the making.

The need to take in their immediate environment, including warnings and legal requirements via signage and markings and others on the road is almost an alien concept to them and has no place in their 'busy' lives. These are the poor 'otherwise law abiding' motorists who have clearly been 'tricked' by the authorities into speeding and the last time they took an interest in speed limits was no doubt the night before their driving test when they looked at the Highway Code. Worrying, but true - I've met them.
Hugh Jones

Agree (32) | Disagree (34)

My instinct is to applaud this change...for the sensible majority, driving slower is the simple option when in doubt. For those that want absolute certainty and think 'speed limit' means 'speed target', maybe it's easier to have 20mph as the default speed in lit streets.
Adrian Berendt, 20's Plenty for Kent

Agree (14) | Disagree (93)

With the constant increase in road traffic it seems to me that a default speed limit set in the 1930s is completely out of date. There is ample evidence that 20mph limits are much safer for vulnerable road users and that they support increases walking and cycling for all ages groups and this is something which the government is committed to supporting. Time for a default national speed limit of 20mph in all residential areas.
Jane Wiltshire

Agree (22) | Disagree (93)

"It is not an exemption to the rules of law. Drivers must always abide by speed limits and have a responsibility to know what the speed limit is on any section of road".

No signage on speed limits means ambiguity, when the penalties and enforcement is moving in the other direction. Out dated sat navs showing higher speed limits are common today as a large amount of the road network has had its speed limit dropped in recent years not helping matters.

As stated by other commenters I do wonder if the "rules" of the road are being designed to criminalise the otherwise law abiding and reduce the ability of people to get around. Money seems to be at the heart of the issue, many years of lack of investment in the bigger picture and just worrying about signs and speed humps as its cheaper than sorting inherent problems in the road layouts.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

Agree (68) | Disagree (15)

R. Craven

It is not an exemption to the rules of law. Drivers must always abide by speed limits and have a responsibility to know what the speed limit is on any section of road. Where a speed limit changes this is indicated by a 0.6m diameter sign at the side of the road. The concept of repeater signs comes from the previous century when locally set limits were few and far between. With the majority of the largest 40 urban authorities, 75% of Inner London boroughs and many other cities and counties setting 20mph for most urban roads then drivers would be well advised to limit their speed to 20mph unless they are sure the limit is 30.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (13) | Disagree (75)

The government seem to have confused the plethora of unnecessary street signs with essential speed limit signs. Given that speed limits increasingly don't match the road layout, it is not so easy to guess what the speed limit actually is. A backward step that will lead to more inadvertent speeding offences. And No, 20mph is not the default limit for urban areas. The poll question is straightforward - not 3 questions in one where one part of the question loads the answer.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (67) | Disagree (5)

You are missing the point. It does not simply extend to the speed limit (could be 20 or 30 or any other speed, of course), but it potentially extends to bus lanes, road markings that have worn out, pedestrian crossings, junctions and all the other signs. I do not have a problem with speed restrictions, but I do have a problem for mile upon mile where I might have missed a main sign and there are street lights. I will be travelling at 30 mph whereas I could be travelling at a higher speed limit. This will fustrate other road users. It is of particular concern for travellers in tourist regions - and let's face it, due to the density of populace these days, at "changeover" day, it seems that the man and his dog are on the roads.
AJG - Mid Wales

Agree (58) | Disagree (1)

As I understand the present law there is no legal requirement for any repeater signs for an urban 30mph hour limit as it is blanket cover. So having passed that first sign and seeing no more a motorist would assume that it is still 30mph until he sees otherwise. There is presently legislation that requires anything other than 30mph to have repeater signs at frequent intervals. Now we have 20 mph limits and that seems to now not be the case and is therefore an exemption to the rules of law. The LA have been given the responsibility and authority to decide whether they should or should not implement a repeater sign. Sad state of affairs. Maybe the government have done this to alleviate any responsibility for this unpopular piece of legislation.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (55) | Disagree (3)

I am not sure that the above poll accurately reflects what has changed. As far as I am aware local authorities now have discretion as to the use of repeater signs based on the details of the site/road in question. Hence it could decide that a repeater sign half way up a 20mph cul-de-sac was not required whilst one on a wider road was required. Discretion to use repeaters on a case by case basis as in the new TSRGD is very different from the "power not to use repeater signs" as a policy. Perhaps the poll results would be more informative if the question were changed.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (9) | Disagree (28)

Surely things could be simplified further; back in 1930 Leslie Hoar-Beletia gave us the default street lights = 30 no lights = no limit. OK I accept the need for the national speed limit and there is enough evidence to prove 20 is far more preferable to the vulnerable road users in our people places than 30 so the new standard rule:- Street lights = 20, no lights = national speed limit. Simple, elegant and an instant end to confusion on roads such as the A38 from the M5 to Bristol airport.
Damian Lee, Devon

Agree (8) | Disagree (48)

Without blanket 20mph enforcement there is going to be problems not only in policing it, if it is ever going to be policed, but in the number of incidents that may occur because drivers will have no absolute understanding or knowledge of what the speed limit is. I live off two main arterial roads and they are only about 400 meters apart. There are 20 streets just like mine within half a mile. If the arterial roads are to stay at the default 30mph speed and all the residential streets are going to be reduced to 20mph then that will require 80 posts and 160 speed signs, 20 on one side and 30mph on the other. The costs of this multiplied several thousand time over is going to be astronomical. If it is to be considered for all such streets and roads the bill will be in the billions. That's if it isn't already there.

If unnecessary signage is going to be removed as being anyway confusing then are the authorities going to stop, for example, the putting up of such signs as appear for new housing estates and therefore lose the finance which the developer pays for.
R.Craven Blackpool

Agree (38) | Disagree (4)

Define residential road. I have friends who live in 5 houses leading onto the same road near a town centre. Is that residential?
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (37) | Disagree (2)

This is long overdue. As authorities increasingly adopt 20mph as the standard limit for most streets then it should come as no surprise to drivers that on residential streets the limit is 20mph. Leaving traffic authorities to use their own discretion on where a 20mph limit may require repeater signs in addition to boundary signs and other treatments is sensible.
Rod King, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (15) | Disagree (89)