For many of the country’s motorists learning to drive will be a distant memory.
And according to new research, millions of licence holders have forgotten some of the basics and can’t recall the meaning behind common road signs.
A study commissioned by Accident Advice Helpline found that three quarters of drivers no longer know the meaning of all the road signs that featured in the Highway Code.
Think you know your road signs? Take our quiz below.
Road sign confusion: Millions of Britons have admitted in a new study that they don’t know – or has forgotten – what some basic road signs mean
The signs Britons struggled with most were those involving bridges, loading zones and restrictions for motor vehicles.
But even the shape of signs is throwing drivers off course with many confused by the different meanings of circular and triangular instructions as well as the colour of signs.
A large percentage of the nation’s 45 million licence holders passed their tests decades ago, but the research found that newly-qualified motorists also struggle to recognise simple signs.
Alarmingly, only 14 per cent of those under 24 were fully confident in naming road signs, despite having taken their test in the last seven years.
For instance, three quarters of this younger age group were unable to identify which signed warned of a hump bridge ahead.
And two out of five didn’t know the sign for risk of grounding, with more than half thinking it meant ‘bumpy road’.
The research showed there was a staggering number of new drivers who have already forgotten some of the basics they would have learned just a few years ago
One of the signs that caused problems for drivers was the one indicating a hump back bridge ahead
Unsurprisingly, just three out of five people aged 55 and over – who could have been behind the wheel for the best part of four decades – felt confident naming all the road signs listed in the Highway Code compared to just over half of 45 to 54 year olds.
When quizzed, most adults didn’t know there are three different types of road signs – giving orders, warning people and informing – that are all signified by different shapes.
For instance, over 60 per cent of drivers didn’t know the meanings behind a road sign in blue circle, which is a sign giving an order. Some 16 per cent of drivers under the age of 24 thought it meant a restriction zone.
Many drivers were not aware that the shape and colour of signs specifically indicated an order, warning and information
Half of the motorists quizzed said they would follow what other drivers were doing if they didn’t understand what a road sign was instructing them. Some 5% would turn around and avoid the area completely
David Carter, spokesman for Accident Advice Helpline, which commissioned the research, said: ‘It was surprising to see how many drivers were unaware of the significance of the shape of a sign let alone its meaning.
‘It’s worrying how many people don’t know basic road signs when driving their vehicle.
‘Understanding road signs are vital to road safety and not knowing their meaning can result in accidents due to ignorance.’
Drivers in the East Midland were most confident of their road-sign knowledge
A worrying number of drivers said they completely ignore speed limit signs – easily one of the most common on UK roads
Some of the incorrect interpretations could easily land drivers in hot water.
A staggering 43 per cent misunderstood the sign for no motor vehicles, thinking it means cars and motorbikes only.
And one quarter admit there are some signs they will actively ignore with more than one in ten disregarding speed limit signs.
A further eight per cent confess to ignoring loading zones and six per cent disregarding parking restrictions – both of which could see them being handed expensive fines.
Not knowing what a road sign means has, in some cases, caused accidents on the road, British drivers have admitted
Men are more confident than women that they can remember all the signs in the Highway Code. Though the research didn’t prove if this was the case
As well as risking penalties for not knowing what a sign is telling them, many are also putting themselves in danger.
Accident Advice Helpline found that one in twenty have been involved in a road accident because they or another driver didn’t understand a road sign. One in five said they had a near miss for the same reason.
The study also discovered that men were more confident identifying signs correctly, with 58 per cent claiming they knew the meaning behind each one. That compared to just 48 per cent of women.
Geographically, drivers in the East Midlands said they remembered everything from their days of studying the Highway Code, with one third claiming they could recall all the road signs they had to learn compared to less than one fifth from Wales.
Think you know your road signs? Take our test below.
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