The Power of Signs

Specialists in Construction Safety & Traffic Management ​

The Power of Signs

We all know that certain road signs are regulatory and must be obeyed, however, at some point in our driving history we have all transgressed against them. Most of these transgressions have gone unpunished but signs such as maximum speed limits are regularly enforced by static and mobile camera technology to capture the number plate of speeding vehicles resulting in the driver receiving a fine and having points on their licence. What is not obvious to most drivers, and in fact roadworkers themselves, is the power behind the WK001 Roadworks Ahead Sign.

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Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual (2019) sets out the requirement for using the sign with the word ‘shall’ which is a legal term meaning mandatory. As the Traffic Signs Manual (2019) is legislation its contents are a legal requirement, not only for persons setting out traffic management, but also for the road user who encounters the sign.

What does that mean for road users / drivers?

Whenever a driver passes the WK001 Roadworks Ahead sign they are forewarned that there is a hazard in the road ahead and they must drive with caution. Providing the sign has been installed correctly and the parameters for visibility set out in the Traffic Signs Manual (2019) are met, it is the duty of the driver to see the sign and act upon it.

When an accident occurs in connection with roadworks it can be guaranteed that the first words out of the driver’s mouth is that there were no warning signs. Roadworkers will tell you, borne out of numerous incidents they have witnessed, that the motorist is always quick to blame them for the incident. The reality is that most of these drivers will have passed the signs and simply not seen them.

So why is the WK001 Roadworks Ahead sign powerful?

It does not matter whether the driver sees the sign, or not, the fact that it is there and installed correctly is enough to satisfy the legal requirement. It is, therefore, the driver’s responsibility to see that sign and the fact that they have not seen it is no excuse in the eyes of the law, just as ignorance of the law is no excuse.

How does it protect the roadworker?

The roadworker has no authority to step into the carriageway, or place equipment on the footpath or carriageway, unless the WK001 Roadworks Ahead sign has been installed beforehand. The roadworker should therefore have confidence that once the sign has been installed drivers will take heed and drive with caution until they pass the WK001/P010 Roadworks End sign enabling them to work safely.


The main limitation of this sign is that its power is only ever realised once an incident has occurred, and the matter ends up in court, by which time it is too late. In many cases the result is simply an insurance claim against damages, however, there is an alarming rate of serious injury and fatality of roadworkers which may possibly have been avoided if drivers were aware of their legal responsibility to see the Roadworks ahead sign and thereafter drive with caution.