Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has called for “pointless” road signs to be removed from our roads, as they have doubled in number in the past 20 years to 4.5 million – almost one for every seven road users.

Pointless signs on the road see information duplicated, or provide no obvious information, confusing drivers and endangering those on the road. McLoughlin has called for regulations to be tightened, and for councils to remove sign posts which state the obvious.

“Many of the signs that go up are simply not needed and it has got to stop. As well as spoiling otherwise beautiful areas of the country, pointless signs just confuse drivers and make the roads less safe,” he said, adding that unnecessary signs are “blotting the landscapes” of towns and cities.

Last year, the Department for Transport said that there are approximately 9,000 signs which are redundant or misleading, and it has since released guidance to councils on how to cut out pointless signs.

Drivers will now be asked as to whether signs that repeat speed limits or repeat information told by road markers are really necessary.

Are road signs all that important?

Road signs are of vital importance for one thing: safety. But is there such a thing as being “too safe”?

Many road signs are important for negotiating tricky roundabouts, or negotiating roads that are new to you, or to give information on unexpected road conditions up ahead. However, sometimes road signs can be seen as clutter. In the Cornish town of Feock, it had nearly 900 signs, for a village with a population of just 3,000. After much campaigning, nearly 200 were removed.

There are hundreds of signs on the roads in the UK, many of which road users do not understand. The most common signs people do not understand are the red and blue no waiting signs, and the yellow and black signs which indicate no stopping between certain times.

An alternative to using road signage is the idea of “shared space,” which are roads that use minimal markings and are designed so that all road users and pedestrians can share the road space. The idea has taken off in whole areas including Makkinga in the Netherlands which is famed for having no road signs in its village.

While it may not be practical to totally get rid of road signs, adopting alternative road layouts like this can help reduce road traffic accidents in areas with a high percentage of pedestrians in cyclists. Areas in towns like London, Brighton, Ashford, Southend, Edinburgh and Weston-super-mare.

Most recently, the shared space in Exhibition Road, London was completed in 2012, showing that a minimalist design on the roads does in fact increase safety.