Can This Sign Make Motorcycles Safer?

News -



After two years of development, Allstate has come up with what, it thinks, is a sign that could make motorcycles safer. Installed permanently at the intersection of President and Pratt in Baltimore, this yellow diamond warns drivers to “Watch For Motorcycles.” Aiming for national standard signage, Allstate will expand the program through Maryland and may take it nationwide.

“The yellow, diamond-shaped warning sign was created following two years of development, which included more than 100 temporary installations in various U.S. cities between 2010 and 2011,” explains the insurance company. “The signs were designed to establish a standardized warning device that can be used by any local or state agency and would be recognizable to riders and motorists across the country.”

The NHTSA says that 46 percent of multi-vehicle accidents that result in fatalities for motorcyclists occur at intersections. In Maryland, nearly one-third of fatal motorcycle crashes occur at intersections, so these signs could actually do some good. To pick the location for this first and subsequent future signs in Baltimore, Allstate worked with the city’s Department of Transportation to identify particularly accident-prone locations.

Allstate is coordinating efforts with local governments to donate both the signs and installation, free of charge.

Can a simple warning sign have an impact on safety? Sadly, it appears as if the main benefit may be a PR one. 30 seconds in Google reveals research reports from Minnesota and Wisconsin that categorically refute the effectiveness of warning signs.

In a report entitled, “Effectiveness of Traffic Signs on Local Roads,” Minnesota concludes, “Traffic warning signs have a minimal or neutral effect on safety.”

In “Effectiveness of ‘Children at Play’ Warning Signs,” a loose equivalent to these motorcycle signs, Wisconsin concludes, “There is no evidence that special warning signs of this sort reduce driver speeds or crash rates.”

Why? “Such signs do not give clear and enforceable guidance to drivers, provide a false sense of security to parents and children that may increase risk, expose the government to liability, give the false impression that areas without such signs do not have children, represent an unnecessary cost that then propagates as additional signs are requested and violate the principle that signage should be based on engineering, not political, decision making.” Swap “motorcycle” into a few places above and draw your own conclusions.

In fact, multiple studies conducted in various European countries of the last decade have concluded that stripping roads of all warnings and markings, thereby forcing drivers to pay attention and think for themselves, is actually the clear route to increased safety. After stripping itself of all signage, lights ad lane markings, Drachten, Holland saw accidents drop from 9 to 10 a year to just two in two years.

  • DavidMG

    (woah, hello wordpress)

    1) Two years to make a sign?
    2) If any motorcyclist believes this will make him safer, he/she should give up riding.
    3) Only way it would help is if it was installed inside all cars’ cup holders.
    4) I like Drachten’s approach. That would never fly in north america or any nanny state.

    • AJ

      “4) I like Drachten’s approach. That would never fly in north america or any nanny state.”
      I’m a believer, too.
      Hardly any signage in North Africa,it all looks a bit chaotic and terrifying but it somehow works.

      The authorities in Edinburgh are looking to remove pedestrian safety barriers, studies indicate cars drive faster when they see them.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        Same with most of India — and given how much of a free-for-all it is to drive there, everyone has to be uber-aware when they’re on the road (especially the moms and dads transporting their whole families on their 50cc mopeds while being passed left and right by bigger motorbikes and cars).

        On the subject of Drachten in particular, I’ve driven past it several times on my way to/from Groningen and stopped a couple times to visit Philips. Unless you live there or you work for Philips, there’s no reason to go there. So I bet the people who live or work there account for 99% of traffic in that town. I imagine that kind of scenario can affect the success of no traffic signage.

        • Ben

          Its like that here in SE asia too. Every ride is a white line nightmare. People ride on the wrong side of the road just for the hell of it and right of way is only a function of vehichle mass.

          Makes you a sharp street rider but some times when you just want to pop out and get some eggs its exhausting to do mad max esque battle just to get to the store.

    • RagdollOp

      4) I like Drachten’s approach. That would never fly in north america or any nanny state.

      That is exactly what I was thinking. The more you do stuff for people the less they actually think for themselves.

  • Sean Smith

    They love to say no one protects riders better than Allstate, but I’m pretty sure that’s just a marketing slogan.

    • Scott-jay

      Now, now; corporations are people, too.

      Let’s have logos on gear/bikes that read, ‘watch out for me’!

      • Tim N.

        LOL Nice quip on corporations.

  • protomech

    “Only way it would help”

    Only way a sign will help is if it slaps inattentive drivers in the face.

    A driver that isn’t paying attention to his/her surroundings isn’t going to pay attention to a sign, particularly after it’s been installed for a few days/weeks.

  • the_doctor

    If a sign can make motorcyclists safer, it probably would have been done by now.

    I like the idea of stripping road signs, though.

  • Jan Wrobel

    In my city, they installed a bunch of signs that advertise friendliness towards lane-splitting motorcyclists:

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      Woah. Very cool!

  • Moto-Mucci

    Allstate would have better luck texting it to them while their driving.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      LOL!!!! Totally awesome!!!!

    • Adrian_B


  • RSassi

    I’ll go pull a few wheelies by it and get back to you.

    Or not.

  • wascostreet

    Instead of an easy-to-ignore sign, how about replacing driver airbags with barbed rusty spikes? That’ll get ‘em to put the cell phone down.

  • Core

    “In fact, multiple studies conducted in various European countries of the last decade have concluded that stripping roads of all warnings and markings, thereby forcing drivers to pay attention and think for themselves, is actually the clear route to increased safety. After stripping itself of all signage, lights ad lane markings, Drachten, Holland saw accidents drop from 9 to 10 a year to just two in two years. “

    Holy crap! What a freaking practical idea! People actually paying attention to the road and the conditions and whats going on around them rather than paying attention to stupid signs, more meant to help the city or state collect taxes than actually help, or looking out for cops. (actually some signs do help, I like the height clearance signs) And stop signs. Those are alright as well. Figured I better say something or people would think that I believe every sign is useless.


    Listen, if it makes sense.. or is common sense, expect our government to do different.

    All the majority do is go through high school, then college, and then get into politics, and they think they can make the world a better place by signing pieces of paper.. *Rolls eyes*

    Anyways, the story is informative. Because I never knew about this until today.

  • JMcMahon


    People don’t read road signs. I pity the fools.

  • slowtire

    Only in english? Good luck.

  • Ax

    If signs are so completely ineffective, could we please get rid of all the billboards and other distracting eyesores along the road?

    • Tim N.


  • Chris

    You know what will make drivers pay more attention to motorcycles? More motorcycles.

    With motorcycles making up such a small percentage of vehicles, drivers simply don’t expect them and therefore aren’t watching for them. Signs won’t make a damn bit of difference.

    • M

      i’d prefer everyone have to learn to ride a motorcycle before they could graduate to a 4-wheel vehicle. tiered licensing to the extreme and we’d all be motorcyclists looking out for one another.

      • filly-fuzz

        In Oz you can get a scooter >50cc license at 16 and a car license at 17. Don’t if it makes more attentive drivers out of them but i think it helps promote two wheeled transport. But you do get fuckloads of teeny-bopper scooter packs roaming the streets near schools, and that shit gets old QUICK.

        Maybe the rules should go a step further and push the driving age to 18 and bring in a 125cc bike class at 17. Then again over protective parents would never allow it and we’d be back to square one.

  • Taco

    Dumb. Signs won’t work. Doesn’t Allstate know loud pipes save lives.

  • Chris Davis

    I want some of that Tupac hologram tech on my bike to make it look like I’m driving a neon polka dotted Hummer. Or maybe a tank. And if it looked like I was up on two wheels (or one track) when I cornered, all the better. Those signs aren’t going to do anything, but I imagine Brammo replica livery would get you noticed.

  • Keith

    More signs? Epic FAIL!
    “sorry…didn’t see you because I was reading a sign”.

  • Gene

    The funny thing is I just finished reading “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)” and the whole point of the book is to explain why this sign is useless, why getting rid of signs helps traffic, why speedbumps do nothing more than piss people off and why “psychological traffic calming” is bullshit.

    It’s pretty good in that the guy doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about things, or an ax to grind.

  • craha

    I like the Holland example. Wonder what would happen there long term.

    I’m usually in favor of letting people think rather than be told but… The other night we drove through a one way alley near our house. We were met in the middle by a truck that was going the wrong way. After some waiting for him to get out of fthe way, we got through. Then we rolled down our window and told him “it is a one way”. His reply: “it’s ok.” and he went back through the wrong way. My conclusion is not so much that people (at least in LA) don’t think, but that they really don’t give a shit! At least not about anyone but themselves…

  • aristurtle

    Baltimoron here.

    The Pratt-President intersection is an enormous clusterfuck. Pratt has like five lanes, two of which are right-turn-only onto President and three of which go across. President has three lanes and generally you want to go from President to Eastern which means you need to cut across all of them to get to the left.

    If there’s a high rate of motorcycle collisions at that intersection I assume it’s a combination of a high rate of collisions in general combined with every motorcyclist lane-splitting down Pratt when it turns into Parking Lot Mode during rush hour. Even I do it, and I’ve seen how expensive the traffic ticket is if they catch you.

    Anyway, more signs aren’t going to do a damn thing for that intersection. I’m not sure if anything will; the reason that area is a traffic nightmare is because they need to route traffic around the Inner Harbor.

  • Ben W

    I’m indifferent. I’m certainly not upset at Allstate. Could the effort have been directed in a more effective way? Probably. I like that they’re trying something, even if it is purely marketing.

    Their insurance makes me happy. My annual premium dropped about a grand when I switched to them. My fiancee’s current provider quoted her over $100 per month for her CBR250R – I got her added to my Allstate policy for a total annual increase around $25. I love them furiously.

    Results may vary.

  • Racetrack Style

    Assuming signs do work…Isn’t the sign in the above pic a bit too close to the intersection?