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The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) has assessed the external layout of 85 motorway service areas, with many scoring badly.

According to the RSMA, a mess of conflicting signs, worn-away road markings and bewildering road layouts are just some of the problems drivers experience when taking a break on England’s motorway network.

The survey assessed the external layout of motorway service areas, including two criteria for pedestrians: amenity (are walkways in place); and quality (are they visible, logical, easy to use); and combined scores out of a possible 60.

Tebay (northbound) on the M6 and Norton Canes on M6 Toll scored 52 points, as each featured clearly marked zebra crossings with a network of major access walkways and in some cases extending these along all available parked rows, minimising pedestrian interaction with vehicle movements.

But 12 of the service areas surveyed (Colsterworth; Leicester (Markfield); London Gateway; Toddington; Fleet; Sedgmoor; Taunton Dean; Charnock Richard; Corley; Chester; Rivington; Burtonwood) made inadequate provision for pedestrians and gained a zero score. Common failures in the league table included worn out pedestrian crossings; no dropped kerb for disabled access; walkways littered with refuse bins, trees and advertising hoardings; and a zebra crossing leading walkers into manoeuvring traffic.

RSMA national director George Lee said: “Drivers are encouraged to break their journey and may be stopping while under the pressures of a long period of driving, bored and fractious children or worse still, a child who has just wailed “I feel sick”. They switch from a relatively orderly road with single-direction traffic and few distractions to a barrage of advertising, direction signs and other drivers in a state of confusion and tension.

“Once they leave the car, the rules of the road are abandoned, and they are left to weave among rows of parked cars and moving traffic to reach the facilities. For many, this makes taking a break, a stressful event.”

The RSMA survey comes within weeks of research conducted by road safety charity the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), in which 79% of the 1,753 drivers asked said they would only choose to stop and take a rest if a motorway service area is located in a convenient place on their journey.

Lee continued: “While thankfully, injuries and collisions are normally avoided due to overall low speeds, there must be countless, near misses, causing anxiety for pedestrians and drivers alike.

“Tebay and Norton Canes demonstrate what good looks like, and it’s time some of those with the poorest scores bring scruffy, neglected and pedestrian-unfriendly car parks up to 2015 standards.”

Holidaymakers and hauliers, van drivers and motorcyclists can share their experiences,  good, bad and near misses, at, where they will be incorporated into a comprehensive report on MSA exteriors for issue in the autumn.

In its rules for drivers, the government says that driving, when tired, greatly increases your risk of collision, and to minimise this risk, take a break of at least 15 minutes after every two hours of driving.

Motorway service areas on the Highways England network are run by a number of private operators.

You can view the full report here.