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Blog: Road signs and the law

Road signsMisunderstanding road signs can land you in trouble with the law. And ignorance is no defence, as motor lawyer Jeanette Miller explains.

"I didn't know what that sign meant officer." 

"If I'd have known driving the wrong down that one-way side street at 60 mph was illegal I wouldn't have done it, honestly!"

Hardly a week goes by without my colleagues and me at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors taking a call from a motorist outlining a road sign incident that has led to legal action against them.

And this has all come about due to the motorist's misunderstanding, not knowing or simply not noticing a road sign, road marking or a rule of the road. 

Dangerous driving prosecution

But a simple mistake can lead to anything from a fine to - in some instances - a prosecution for dangerous driving that could lead to the court considering a prison sentence.

So, whether caused by not understanding them or ignoring them, contravening road signs can cause problems. 

Road signs and the awareness surrounding them is an increasingly important part of driving. 

But with the number of road signs rising from two million in 1993 to more than 4.5 million by 2013, this increased signage is causing clutter - and many signs are simply hard to understand. 

Top five confusing road signs

Exclusive research carried out on behalf of in 2013 found that 93% of Brits failed to recognise the sign for "no vehicles except bikes being pushed".

Meanwhile 83 per cent were unclear on the meaning of the common "Urban Clearway" sign, and  67 per cent were bamboozled by the "no waiting" sign.

Confusing road signs

Need to revise road signs

Thankfully, the government has now realised it needs to act and has proposed clearer - and fewer - road signs and markings. 

A consultation on the government's proposed changes is underway and ends 12 June, 2014.

I hope that the outcome will be an end to overly complex signs and signing systems.

Many of us can be committing more serious offences than we know when we don't observe road signs. 

Did you know that apart from being extremely unsafe, failing to stop at a stop sign or give way at a give-way sign can lead to you being prosecuted for dangerous driving.

This is the case even if there is no one about to be affected by your actions. 

New driver vigilance

In particular, new drivers need to be especially vigilant, as if you pick up six penalty points within the first two years of passing the driving test then your licence will be revoked.

That means you will have to take your practical and theory tests all over again. 

While you clearly need to study and be aware of road signs to pass both tests, clearer and fewer signs and road markings is welcome news - and overdue.

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director at motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

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Jeanette Miller

Jeanette Miller

Lawyer and legal blogger Jeanette Miller is managing director of motoring law specialists Geoffrey Miller Solicitors.

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