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Autogrumble by 'GOM'

3. Silly Signs & Slogans

When I was at school the local council had a hoarding on the Brighton Road south of Coulsdon on which they pasted road safety posters. They had slogans like "Undertakers love overtakers" and "One for the road - one bier" with appropriate illustrations - a touch of humour to put over an important message.

What do we get now? "Kill your speed". What does that mean? To kill something means to make it dead, so to kill your speed must mean to stop. Well if we got all vehicles to stop that would reduce accidents a bit!

Speed is OKOn the same theme, "Speed Kills" is another nonsensical slogan. Speed doesn't kill. Up until 2003 it was possible to fly to New York at over twice the speed of sound but Concorde passengers and crew didn't usually arrive dead! In fact some time ago the Department of Transport put out the leaflet shown here. Inside it had "but speeding isn't" which makes the point. Usually it's the stopping that kills you.

Now I don't wish to make light of speeding - the point is that all this hectoring and lecturing is counter-productive. We're all told that smoking kills but people still smoke. We get so used to the same signs being plastered all over the place that they fade into the background. We programme ourselves to treat them as noise. The same goes for the speed camera signs. We all know that there are speed cameras, but if you're intent on breaking the limit a picture of an old-fashioned camera on lamp post isn't going to deter you. The idea that drivers are blissfully ignorant of the speed limit and need constant reminding doesn't pass muster, and if they are does it make any difference?

tram signAnd whilst we're on the subject of daft signs, the ones I find so absurd as to be distracting are those depicting trams. Have you ever seen a tram with the doorway directly over a truck? Where are the top halves of the wheels? The tram has to be shortened to go on the sign, but surely we could have a door at each end, or just one in the middle, or a two-axle tram?

There's one sign that has a unique shape and has been agreed as a standard throughout the world. The octagonal STOP sign can be recognised by its shape even if it's covered with snow. So what does the Royal Borough do? Put it on a square board. Wonderful!

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Last updated 28th November, 2009