ADAC, the German automobile association, is now almost a decade into its war against unnecessary traffic signs, the reason for which is that the sheer multitude of signs is proving to be a safety hazard by distracting drivers. An interesting array of signs can be found within Germany’s ‘Schilderwald’ or sign forest, including:
- ‘Pedestrians Only’ signs- at entrances which clearly would not allow a bicycle to fit through, let alone a car;
- ‘Residential Area’ signs- in the middle of housing estates;
- Signs which inform drivers that they are on a ‘dirty road’
- Multiple identical signs at a single intersection;
- Blank signs.
This penchant for signage is down to the Germans’ historic like for “clear rules,” notes a German civil servant*. However- these rules it would seem, are not actually creating a good level of road safety, with Germany ranking 8th highest for the rate of injuries from road accidents out of 21 countries**.
ADAC patrol the roads looking out for these ‘distracting’ signs, covering them with hoods to indicate plans for removal, and- if nobody complains within a few weeks- they are knocked down. Yet, whilst some of these signs are sold on for scrap, others are put in storage in case they are needed again- defeats the object no?
The RAC Foundation, who have also been campaigning to reduce the number of traffic signs in England’s rural areas, calling for a “crackdown on countryside clutter” with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, are pleased to see that our European neighbours are also taking the hazards of signage seriously, and hope that more countries will do so in the future.
* The Wall Street Journal Online
** Survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development