HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release (WMRCC 02/08) issued by The Government News Network

Drivers on the M42 in the West Midlands will this week become the first on England's motorway network to benefit from having digital pictograms on the overhead electronic signs.

The pictograms, which will be displayed as internationally recognised symbols, will be used on 36 existing signs over the 11 mile Active Traffic Management stretch of the M42 and will help road users see at a glance what conditions lie ahead.

The five different types of pictograms will help warn drivers of dangers ahead including accidents, congestion, snow/ice, high winds or an increased skid risk. The internationally recognisable signs will also make it easier for foreign drivers to understand the warnings.

Highways Agency Traffic Operations Director Derek Turner said:

"This is the first time we have used these latest generation signs with pictograms to get helpful and up-to-date information out to drivers and I am pleased that those in the West Midlands are the first to benefit."

The Active Traffic Management scheme, which allows motorists to drive on the hard shoulder during busy periods, has been a clear success, with the first six months' results showing significant benefits for motorists, the environment and the economy. Use of the hard shoulder in peak periods saw average journeys fall by more than a quarter on the northbound carriageway and drivers' ability to predict their weekday journey times improved by 27%.

Alongside these results, fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%. Importantly, road safety was not compromised, with the personal injury accident rate falling from an average 5.2 per month to 1.5 per month on this section of the M42.