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by Les Oldridge, AMIRTE, MIMI
Traffic signs (1)
TRAFFIC SIGNS become more numerous each year. "Keep Left", "Keep Right". "No • Right Turn", arrows pointing this way and arrows pointing that way, white lines and yellow lines, temporary signs indicating road works and many more guide, regulate, inform and sometimes, perhaps, confuse the driver, Al] these ' signs must be authorized and, in fact, it is not permissible for the ordinary private person to erect traffic signs at all and generally only the highway authority, the Department of the Environment and the police may do so.
The highway authority can, by written notice, require the owner or occupier of land to remove any unauthorized sign and if he fails to do so the authority can itself effect the removal and recover costs; they are empowered to enter land for this purpose.
On occasions one sees signs such as "Factory Entrance", "Lorries Crossing", "Cattle Crossing" erected by the occupiers of premises in good faith to warn traffic of an impending hazard but these are unauthorized signs.
An exception to this genera] rule is the red triangle which anyone can place on the roadway or footpath to warn traffic of a temporary obstruction of the carriageway. The use of the sign is authorized by the Traffic Signs (Temporary Obstructions) Regulations 1966. The sign must be so constructed that it will stand firmly on the road with its apex pointing upwards. Its size is prescribed in the Regulations and it must have a red reflectorized and a red fluorescent surface and be marked with the British Standard for an Advanced Warning Triangle, namely BS AU 47: 1965. When in use it must be placed at least 50yd away from, and on the same side as, the obstruction. Normally, it is used when a broken-down vehicle or one involved in an accident is causing a temporary obstruction but it could be used for any other obstruction of a temporary nature.
The various types of signs and their specifications are dealt with in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1964. The signs fall into three broad classes:—
(a) Mandatory signs, ie those which indicate a legal requirement to which failure to conform constitutes an offence; (b) hazard warning signs; and (c) informatory signs.
Mandatory signs are generally circular in shape with either a red border or a blue background. There are exceptions to this rule, however. One example, the "Give Way" sign , is trangular in shape; double white lines and traffic signals also do not conform to the general rule. "No Right Turn", "No U Turn" and "Buses and Coaches Prohibited" are just three examples of the common red bordered circular signs while "Police Slow", "Police Accident" and a white arrow on a blue disc are illustrations of the blue background mandatory signs.
Hazard warning signs inform the driver of some road hazard ahead of which he should be made aware in the interest of road safety, eg "Road Narrows", "Level Crossing", "Hump Back Bridge". They are usually triangular with a red border and black figures on a white background.
Informatory signs Informatory signs are always square or rectangular and in the case of those on primary roads have a green background with white border and letters. On other roads these signs have a white background with black border and letters. Direction signs to local places are similar but with a blue border.
Traffic lights are in a somewhat different
category than the signs already discussed but the Traffic Signs Regulations sets out in paragraph 34, in some detail, the significance of each coloured signal as follows:—
RED. Vehicles not to proceed beyond the stop line or, if the line is not visible, the signal itself.
AMBER WITH RED. Denotes an impending change to green, but does not nullify the prohibition of the Red light. GREEN. Vehicles may pass the signals. AMBER. As for the Red light, except that if when the amber light appears a vehicle is too close to the stop line or signals to stop safely it may proceed.
GREEN ARROW. A vehicle may proceed in the direction shown whatever other lights may be showing as well.
The significance of each colour is of great importance in any prosecution for disobeying a traffic light. In the case where it is brought forward as a defence that a driver was so close to the stop line when the amber light appeared that he could not stop safely, then the court has to be satisfied that this was in fact the case.
Under what circumstances would it not be safe to stop when the amber shows? I would think when following traffic is likely to collide with the vehicle or where the brakes would have to be applied so violently that the vehicle is likely to go into a skid are two cases where it is not safe to stop. Even here much would depend on the actual circumstances at the time; obviously, the vehicle would be more likely to skid if the road was wet and greasy than if it was dry. The speed at which the offender approached the junction would also be highly relevant.
More about traffic signs next week.