Illegal road signs ‘putting region’s motorists at risk’

County Hall in Beverley.
County Hall in Beverley.

Illegal road signs placed in high risk hotspots are putting drivers at risk of serious accidents, with roughly one a day being put up across the East Riding.

Between April 1 and September 12 last year, 154 companies and organisations have been asked to remove signs placed in high risk areas, such as on high speed roads, close to junctions, on roundabouts and at traffic lights.

This equates to approximately 30 signs per month being placed in highly dangerous roadside areas, with the majority of these being signs for commercial profit-making events and companies.

A report presented to East Riding councillors has highlighted the issues arising from the council’s pragmatic – rather than zero-tolerance – approach towards signage enforcement.

The council’s director of environment and neighbourhood services Paul Bellotti, outlined the difficulty the authority faces in dealing with the complex issue.

Of the 154 companies contacted, six have failed to take action to remove their signs and have been issued with fixed penalties (£75 per sign). The council has also prosecuted four commercial companies for persistently advertising in high risk areas despite attempts by officers to get them to remove their signs from the highway network.

The council’s highways enforcement department currently deals with about 30 businesses and organisations every month who place signs on the highway, with many of them erecting multiple signs.

One company placed over 100 signs across the East Riding to promote an event despite warnings from the council – the company was eventually prosecuted for failing to take action.

Signage can either be fly-posted, which is something that is fixed or staked into the highway or an A-board which is usually something placed on a footpath. The East Riding has a road network of over 3,500km of predominantly rural roads, which can cause difficulties in enforcement.

Paula Parker, taskforce and enforcement service manager at the council said: “To do nothing would increase risks to an unacceptable level and degrade the general street scene of an area, and signs attract signs – leaving one sign opens the door for others.”

“The law is clear, signage on the highway that doesn’t have consent is illegal, [but] it doesn’t distinguish between different types of advertisers such as for-profit businesses or rural, voluntary-run organisations.

“The purpose of an advert is to draw somebody’s attention to it, various studies have established the difference between distraction and reaction times and it’s been demonstrated that roadside advertising can adversely affected drivers’ decision-making times and may be a factor in road traffic accidents.”

While private companies and organisations have been prosecuted in the past, the council has never taken action against a charity or community based event for putting on signs – despite representing around ten per cent of the total number of signs. Ms Parker explained that this was due to charities generally being more cooperative and less likely to do it again after being contacted by the council.