Did you see a sign?
In just about every jurisdiction around, you need to know what basic road signs mean in order to get your beginner’s permit. In Ontario, you’re allowed 4 signs wrong out of 20 and can still pass that portion of the written test. That’s not bad, but shouldn’t we know what all of the signs mean? If you come across a sign and don’t know what it means, perhaps you should look it up and find out for sure; especially if you’ll come across it again while driving.
Knowing what the signs mean is one thing; know what the correct response should be is another. When I’m teaching students in the car for Young Drivers of Canada, I’ll ask them what certain signs mean that we come across. Quite often they are correct with the meaning, but they don’t do anything about it. Why not? Did they just learn the meaning but not the application?
The driver in this photo basically did the same thing. There are enough signs ahead of them to let them know they must turn right; the “right turn only” sign, the “one way street” sign, the “do not enter” sign and the “do not turn left or go straight” sign. All these signs should have told the driver they can’t go straight; plus the fact there was a right arrow painted on the road and that there were buses directly ahead of them. It was only at the last minute they realized they had to turn right. That’s why they’re far from the curb and their wheels have remained straight. Why did they miss all of these signs?
The easiest way to ensure you don’t miss any important signs is to keep your eyes moving from side to side and well ahead of you. Multiple glances every few seconds will allow you to find any signs that you need to see. The tough part for many drivers is determining which signs are the important signs.
Regulatory signs need to be followed by law. They tend to have a white or black background and are usually square or rectangular in shape. There’s often a reason for these signs, so even if you aren’t sure why you must follow the directions of those signs, follow them and find out afterwards.
Caution signs are warning the driver of impending danger and have a yellow background with black lettering or symbols. These are usually diamond shaped, but don’t have to be followed every time. However, it’s a strong suggestion to obey these signs because if you don’t, you may cause you or your vehicle some harm. The caution/warning signs basically mean “look out!”
Signs were placed at the side of the road for a reason. Move your eyes to spot them and ensure you know what to do when you see them. Learn to ignore the signs that don’t affect your travels. This way you won’t have to slow down to read all of the signs.
One of the participants from season one of Canada’s Worst Driver wanted to do just that; read all of the road signs he came across. This included the parking and no parking signs, the destination signs, street signs, etc. He felt that if someone put them there, they must be important enough to read it. It stopped him from driving safely. Over time he realized he had to look well ahead of his vehicle and determine which signs were needed. Once he got that habit built, he became a better driver.
Learning the meaning of the road signs is only the first part to becoming a good driver. Responding to their message completes the process. The next time you’re driving, take a look for the signs and see how many signs you know the meaning to and the response; I dare you.