CHALLENGES WITH ROAD SIGNS

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ROAD signs are not decorations on the road. They are designed to give information to road users to help them use the road safely. A driver who obeys road signs is a safe driver and a road with road signs is a safe road.

In our country, we have a lot of challenges with regard to road signs. In this article, we will highlight a few of them and propose solutions to overcome them.

The first challenge is that road signs are not adequate on our roads. New or upgraded roads are being fitted with safety features like road signs.

However, most roads especially old ones do not have road signs.  Sometimes you only find road signs in towns or areas where people live along the highway.  Once you pass such places, you will rarely find road signs especially on sections of the road that are far from towns or villages.

This inconsistency of road signs makes drivers fail to pay attention to road signs even in areas where they are present. When a driver embarks on a journey, he or she is eager to see and obey the road signs. But if the driver keeps on driving without seeing any road sign even in areas where signs are expected, he or she will stop anticipating to see road signs.

Before long, not finding road signs becomes normal such that even after finding signs, the driver will behave as though they are not present. After all that is the way he or she has been driving in most sections of the road.

To improve compliance, relevant authorities must ensure that road signs are consistently erected along the entire stretch of the road. Road signs shouldn’t be limited to areas where people live.

The second challenge is that most road signs on our roads are either damaged or stolen by people.  Majority of the members of the public are people who have never been drivers before. So, they don’t fully understand how important road signs are to drivers.  In fact, they don’t see any difference between road signs or billboards! To them, road signs are sources of raw materials for making braziers.

Sometimes people scratch, paint or stick anything on the road sign including campaign materials. This makes road signs unclear to drivers. What is even more surprising is that sometimes people simply damage the road signs for no reason at all and leave them bent or twisted.

To overcome these unsafe practices, relevant authorities should sensitise the general public on the importance of road signs during road construction and maintenance. They should also carry out regular audits of road signs and repair or replace those that are damaged or stolen.

The fact that road signs are damaged or stolen shouldn’t be used as an excuse for the relevant authorities not to install, maintain and fix them.

The third challenge is that most road signs are blocked by billboards or by vegetation.  Drivers find it difficult to see road signs if they are covered with vegetation such as shrubs or tall grass. This can be overcome by ensuring regular road clearance of vegetation. When the vegetation is kept short, it also improves the view for the drivers as well thereby preventing road accidents.

Having too many billboards make it difficult for drivers to see road signs. Drivers struggle to see the road sign if it’s obstructed by billboards. In most cases, billboards are bigger than road signs making it easier to see the billboard than the road sign.

This problem can be resolved by regulating the height, size and number of billboards at a given location of the road.

As I conclude, allow me to state that obeying the road signs is for your own benefit as a road user especially as a driver.  Despite all the challenges highlighted here, you still have a personal responsibility to obey road signs found on the roads. Failing to obey road signs may result in an accident which can kill you or others.

I know violating of road signs is not strongly enforced. The law enforcers mostly focus on over-speeding, vehicle fitness and driver’s licence. 

As a result, most drivers don’t treat failure to obey road signs as a serious offence. Remember that your motivation to obey the road signs shouldn’t be based on whether it’s an offence or not. Your motivation should be based on whether it’s safe or unsafe.

Violating road signs is unsafe behaviour. Anything that puts you in danger of causing an accident must be taken seriously whether traffic police or RTSA takes it seriously or not.

Safety hazards highlighted by the road signs put your life at risk, not the life of police or RTSA. So, obey all road signs.

It’s practically impossible to station traffic police officers at every T-Junction of every road to remind you that you are approaching a hazardous place where collisions are common. But it’s possible to simply put T-Junctions signs to give warning to you.  If you choose to ignore the T-Junction sign and cause an accident, you will not blame anyone because the warning was given to you. Just because traffic police or RTSA don’t arrest you for violating road signs doesn’t mean road signs are not important.

You will agree with me that we all need to improve our attitude towards road signs starting from road designers to road users. Road signs are not decorations. They need to serve their purpose of promoting road safety. To learn more about road signs, read the Highway Code.

If you need a free soft copy of the Revised Highway Code, send me email or WhatsApp text. I will send it to you for free. Until next week, stay safe. Zambia needs you.

*The author is the CEO of SafetyFocus Suppliers, a leading safety company in Zambia. For your daily safety tips, like our Facebook page on www.facbook.com/safetyfocussuppliers.

For your comments, contact the author on cell 0955 179267 or email: k.mark@safetyfocussuppliers.com

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