Traffic signs are designed to help improve safety on our streets and highways, making it easier for drivers to understand (and follow) the rules of the road and navigate to their destination. In an ideal world, regulatory and warning signs should help to improve the flow of traffic, reduce accidents and ensure that pedestrians can safely use designated crosswalks. Unfortunately, the reality is that traffic signs are less than perfect; in some cases, roadside signs have been linked to an increase in traffic congestion, pollution and the misuse of neighborhood streets as alternatives to designated commuter routes. Worse yet, traffic signs have been blamed for increased accident rates, particularly among rear-end collisions. Here are the top four problems with traffic signs:

1) Traffic Signs Can Lead To “Distracted Driving”

While a few clear, well-placed signs serve to help improve traffic flow and safety, once drivers have to contend with multiple signs involving speed limits, turn restrictions, time of day regulations and other road rules, distracted driving becomes a serious issue. Drivers are simply unable to navigate safely while simultaneously locating and reading numerous traffic signs – this sign-induced form of distracted driving has been blamed for numerous crashes, particularly at busy urban and suburban intersections.

2) Too Many Signs Leads To Information Overload

In areas where there are simply too many signs, drivers are at risk of simply “tuning out” the signs altogether – the result of information overload. According to British transportation secretary Patrick McLoughlin, excessive roadside signage can actually make driving more dangerous in the UK, a feeling shared by the numerous lobby groups in that country that are working to eliminate confusing, redundant and unnecessary signs.

3) Signs Can Make Drivers Less Defensive

Another major problem with traffic signs is trust; most drivers comply with signs directing them to yield, stop, turn left from the left turn lane and merge when told to, however, not all drivers follow the rules of the road. Traffic signs can cause drivers to let down their guard and drive less defensively than they should be, based on the unrealistic belief that all drivers will comply with the rules expressed through traffic signs. Many serious crashes involving drivers running red lights could be avoided if all drivers checked the intersection before entering it, regardless of the color of the light.

4) Traffic Signs Are Expensive

According to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, installing a single traffic light costs between $200,000 and $500,000, a cost which is ultimately passed along to drivers in the form of increased taxes on gas and vehicle registration fees.

Remember that while reading and understanding roadside signs are an important part of safe driving, traffic signs aren’t perfect – be extra cautious in areas where there is an abundance of signs, and never assume that other drivers will comply with traffic signs. Always drive defensively and avoid the temptation to read too many signs at once