An exclusive investigation by Motors.co.uk has revealed drivers pay little attention to advice on motorway Dot Matrix signs – despite them costing over £1.8 million a year to run. We conducted a YouGov poll which revealed that 43 per cent of motorists do not alter their journeys, even when Dot Matrix signs warn them of delays or closed junctions ahead.
A total of £23 million was spent on maintaining motorway communications technology last year, which includes fixed traffic signs, cameras, roadside telephones and signals, as well as the MIDAS incident detection and automatic signalling system, of which the Dot Matrix screens are a part.
We uncovered this information after submitting a Freedom of Information request submitted to the Highways Agency on the specific maintenance cost of the Dot Matrix signs.
The technology was introduced to notify drivers of impending traffic jams, closed motorway routes and to ease congestion but are more likely to display anti drink-drive messages and advise motorists to regularly make pit stops.
The drivers surveyed in our poll stated that other than notifications of delays, the most common messages they had seen were warnings not to drive tired and updates on the weather.
Phill Jones of Motors.co.uk, said: “The results of our poll have shown that electronic motorway signs are only serving to lecture motorists on driving safely and are not providing enough useful information that has a bearing on their journeys.
With the majority of drivers paying little heed to these signs, we feel the considerable sums of money – which is being paid for by drivers who are increasingly feeling the pinch with ever increasing running costs and punitive fines for minor traffic offences – could be better spent on supporting the UK’s ailing road infrastructure.”
Although the Highways Agency couldn’t disaggregate the exact annual running cost of Dot Matrix signs and MIDAS systems, they did reveal the overall spend on technology was £23 million a year. There are around 35,000 communication assets in the UK, of which there are around 2,500 message signs, meaning proportionate maintenance costs of over £1.6 million.
Factor in energy costs and the bill rises to a total of £1.89million a year for the Dot Matrix signs alone.
IAM director of policy Neil Greig defended the use of the advanced warning systems, though stated the need for accurate information, saying: “The signs are worthwhile but it’s important to get the quality of the information right so that drivers can trust it. “In the past we simply had flashing lights which could have meant anything. New electronic signs allow much more information to be displayed. Drivers need to learn to trust the information and act upon it.”
Do you think annual maintenance budget for the MIDAS system could be better spent elsewhere?