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Should road signs take the cigarette package approach?

Posted on November 21, 2017

Back in 2008, the gory imagery that we’ve all come to associate with cigarette packaging was introduced, with the aims of putting off current smokers and discouraging young people to take up the habit. Now, as a part of Road Safety Week, road safety campaigners are suggesting that the same approach should be taken with speed limits, with 20, 30 and 40mph signs to be accompanied by pictures of accidents to discourage people from speeding.


In a study of 2,000 respondents by More Than, it was revealed that 58% of motorists say that they would support the use of the shocking signage, with 67% stating that seeing an image of a crash on a speed limit sign would ‘make them more tangibly aware of the dangers of speeding’ whereas 56% were just more likely to slow down due to the shocking nature of the images.


The theory obviously borrows from the cigarette-packaging principle, but there is very little overwhelming evidence to support its effectiveness. A study conducted five years after the packaging rules were introduced, there was negligible evidence to suggest that the images were having any effect, especially missing their mark with younger smokers. In essence, it had done little to limit the amount of smokers in the UK.

Obviously, these are very different industries. Every motorist will be exposed to the images on common speed signs, and that’s what many people are having concerns about. One commenter remarked upon the already distracting nature of signage, let alone putting a gruesome, shocking image below one, and maintained that this would cause people to have even less time with their eyes on the road. Another said they would prefer to see reasons and data as to why the speed limit for the areas was set, so they could understand it better.


More Than now say that they want to start getting the signs out onto the road, do you think this would actually work or would it just result in further distractions where they aren't needed?