Too many motorway service areas are a mess of conflicting signs, worn-away road markings and bewildering road layouts, according to a survey by the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA).

The survey assessed the external layout of 85 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.

The services with the highest points were Tebay (northbound) on the M6 and Norton Canes on M6 Toll, which 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.

Twelve of the service areas surveyed (Colsterworth; Leicester (Markfield); London Gateway; Toddington; Fleet; Sedgmoor; Taunton Dean; Charnock Richard; Corley; Chester; Rivington; Burtonwood) in the opinion of the RSMA 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.

Commenting on the findings, 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.”

Lee added: “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.”