Generally, when I drive around Britain—unless I am in a location I know intimately—I am accompanied by the vague, yet persistent feeling, that I am lost. This, generally, is because I am. And the reason is the road marking.
Driving in Britain is always more difficult than in the US, because they don’t automatically assume you’re a moron here. In the US, signs are everywhere: US 9 North, turn lane only, US 9 North next junction, Right Lane for County Route 25 Only, US 9 North use Left Lane only, US 9 North Turn here, This is County Route 25 East, You Missed the US 9 North turn you idiot, Denny’s 3 miles. However, I think the Ministry of Traffic Signs is giving the public in general, and me in particular, a lot more credit than we deserve; when I am driving on unfamiliar roads in an unexplored part of the country, I appreciate being treated like a moron.
The absence of this forest of signs makes the scenery in Britain undeniably more fetching, but it also means I am continually lost. Never mind that I often get one chance to notice and react to a sign in order to get on the road I want, often, those signs are painted on the road surface, which makes reading them in bumper-to-bumper traffic difficult.
I wish I had a tuppence for every time I have been driving happily down a road only to find I am suddenly in a turn-only lane and diverted off into an industrial estate. Even when I do manage to get into the correct lane on a round-about, I frequently find it swapped out from beneath me: I may have entered the round-about in the A449 lane but I then find myself on the M3 heading for London and I have no idea how.
Now I am the last person to suggest we should clutter up England’s green and pleasant land with road signs, but a hint of where I am and where I am heading now and again would really be appreciated. Or at least stop diverting me into industrial estates.
I have to disagree with Mike about the simplicity of signage in the States. Yes, there are tons and tons of road signs, but they don't exactly make navigation any easier. Take Chicago for instance; if I want to drive to a northern suburb, I need to know the names of the roads in that suburb. The signs on the freeway never actually tell you that you're approaching Winnetka, ( a northern suburb) just that the next exit is Willow (Road) or Lake. So unlike driving around London, with its helpful signs for Balham, Clapham or Stoke Newington, all we get are street names. Oh yes, and the freeways themselves tend to have two nomenclatures - a number and a name. I-90 (Interstate 90) in Chicago for example, is also known as the Kennedy. I-94 is the Edens. We also have the Ike and the Dan Ryan but I can never remember what their numbers are. It's as if everyone's in on a secret as far as roads are concerned.
Even more confusing is the fact that you’re setting off to drive 20 miles south of Chicago, but the road you follow is actually saying “Memphis”, which is a tad further than you need by about 7 hours. Again, no mention of the suburb of your choice. You will however, be totally confused by the amount of signs hanging from every bridge across the freeways. By the time you’ve found the one you want, you’ve missed it and the next exit is 25 miles away.
And I’m not the only one who thinks this – read this hilarious article about America's worst road signs.