Idea for Improving Road-Signage in Large Cities

My first idea is for improving road-signage in an attempt to increase safety and decrease confusion and frustration.  In large cities like Houston, TX, many lanes are added onto the highways as you enter the city, and then taken off as you leave it.  If you are on a road-trip, and simply passing through a city like Houston, you cannot remain in the same lane, because on several occasions, your lane will exit, forcing you to keep changing lanes just to continue driving on the same road.  In many cases, the signs giving directions seem to be pointing to the wrong lane or to the border between two lanes.  Also, if the sign says “right lane must exit in 1/2 mile”, in some cases the right lane at the time you read that sign exits before that, and the lane that is _then_ the right lane exits; so it’s not like you can see the sign, get in the lane, and wait for your exit.  Many drivers realize at the last second that they are in the wrong lane, and recklessly change.  (Houston was the 2nd-deadliest traffic-fatality city when I lived there from 1998-2006, according to one source which I am unable to find right now, but hope to add here later.)

At first, I thought I was the one with the problem, but as I spoke to other drivers, even life-long Texans, they also shared that they, too, were confused by the signage.  Well, during the 8 years I lived in Houston, I thought about this situation, trying to imagine how improvement to the signage could be made.  My first thought was lane-numbering; the lanes would be numbered, and then the signs could refer to the lanes that way, as “Lane 7 must exit in 1/2 mile”.  One thing I was concerned about, however, is that lanes are added to, and disappear from, both the left and the right, so you would wind up going into negative numbers like  “Lane -2” and also there might be times when there was no Lane 1, particularly as you left the city.  I thought these things would confuse (especially out-of-town) drivers.  Then I thought about colors (Red Lane, Blue Lane), but some drivers will be color-blind.  I thought about shapes, which would be easy if it were just circle and triangle and square, but with so many lanes, you’d  have to have a lot more shapes, and it might be hard to distinguish a hexagon from a heptagon while negotiating traffic on a dangerous highway.  Then I thought about native flora and fauna, such as “Magnolia Lane must exit in 1/2 mile”.  I also was concerned that out-of-town drivers might not catch on to this schema very automatically.  (Unlike lane-numbering, I had never heard of lane-naming.)  Also, both in the case of lane-numbering and lane-naming, once a lane left the highway and joined another highway, would it need to be re-named?  I saw potential for some real confusion here, too.  Finally, it occurred to me: why not name the lanes after major destinations associated with them, like “Theatre District Lane” or “610 Lane”.  If this were done, how would drivers know which lane was which?  It could be painted on the lanes.  That way, whatever lane you were in, you would know the plans in store for it; if you were trying to take I-10 to San Antonio, and the lane you were in said “Theatre District Lane”, then you would know that a lane-change was in store for you at some point because your lane would exit at the Theatre District.

I never got a chance to share this with DOT or whoever should’ve seen it.  When I first moved to Houston in 1998, I attempted to contact whoever was in charge of signage, and never found that organization; different individuals kept passing me to others until I went in a full circle back to the first one I had called.  If anyone reading this believes this idea could save lives and reduce stress, why not propose it to some governmental authority?

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~ by paulnew on May 9, 2012.

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