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  • What are the origins of traffic signs?

    Today, there are over 600 models of traffic signs, and it can sometimes be complicated to know them all. Before learning about all of them, let’s discover the history of traffic signs and see how they have evolved to reach the present day.

    The origin in the Roman Empire

    The history of traffic signs dates back to antiquity and originates from the Romans. During the Roman Empire, they created stone markers, called milestone, which indicated distances and directions to travelers. These markers also featured information about ongoing maintenance works along with the name of the emperor.

    The royal markers

    As early as 1745, Louis XV installed stone markers adorned with fleurs-de-lis along the royal roads every 2 kilometers. These markers were intended to identify royal infrastructures and also to define the water supply system for the Palace of Versailles.

    The “Fingerpost

    A “fingerpost” is a guidance post that points the way to a named location. Its purpose is to guide users towards a specific destination. These posts, made of wood or cast iron, are classic models in the United Kingdom.

    The first modern and automobile signs

    With the arrival of automobiles in the 20th century, the first signs were born to regulate and secure traffic. The implementation of these signs was disorganized, and countries did not have standardized signage. In France, the first signs were those that contained the inscription ‘Ralentir’ (Slow down) and ‘Allure modérée’ (Moderate speed). It was in 1902 that the General Automobile Association created signs indicating dangers.

    The standardization of signage

    In 1909, during a diplomatic conference in Geneva, an attempt at international standardization of signs took place. This conference resulted in some distinctions between signs. However, it was truly in 1926, during a meeting in Paris, that the Permanent Committee on Road Traffic decided to standardize traffic signs in Europe. The danger signs became triangular and rounder.

    In 1931, an international convention on the standardization of road traffic signs was signed, giving rise to 4 types of signs : 

    • Danger
    • Caution
    • Prescription
    • Information

    In 1949, the Geneva Protocol distinguished : 

    • Danger signs
    • Prohibition signs
    • Obligation signs
    • Information signs
    • Supplementary panels

    In 1971, a European agreement on road signs was ratified to distinguish : 

    • Vertical signage from horizontal signage
    • Permanent signage from temporary and variable signage
    • And signage for motorways, cyclists, and pedestrians

    What the regulations say

    Rules and standards have been put in place to ensure road safety. However, with the advent of new technology and evolving needs, these rules and standards have undergone changes. Regulations come into play to set specific rules, for example, to make signs more visible with retro reflective films. Standards, on the other hand, dictate sizes, colors, and placements.

    With digital development, new needs have arisen. For example, with electric vehicles, signs indicating charging zones have been created. And with technological advancements, illuminated signs have emerged to provide more visibility to drivers.

    What WP Signalisation offers

    WP Signalisation offers road signs compliant with French and European standards, customizable signs, and also illuminated signs.

    Discover our signs on our shop panneau-de-signalisation.com

    For more information, contact us via our form.