Warning: warning sign ahead

The driver asked me why there was a sign “SLOW BAD INTERSECTION.” On the spur of the moment all I could say is the town hadn’t paid attention to the last 50 years of traffic control standards. “SLOW” signs have been obsolete since the 1960s, and the “bad intersection” got a stop sign a long time ago.

The next yellow sign, I said without prompting “that’s a marketing sign.” Signs mentioning children are marketing signs. Some are words, some are fat stick figures, none of them do anything but distract you from driving. Same for “SLOW” without “CHILDREN.”

Presence of these signs is a clue that professionals aren’t in charge of traffic control. Not that there isn’t a professional engineer in the DPW, but he’s not in effective control. (Yes, “he”; it’s a male-dominated profession.)

At a traffic council meeting in Newton, Massachusetts somebody mentioned a policy that “CHILDREN” signs were supposed to be all over. That’s a city where you can count on safety yielding to politics. There’s nothing special about the streets with those signs compared to any other street in the area.

A couple decades ago the Federal Highway Administration said brighter yellow signs could be used to emphasize pedestrian presence. It turns out almost every street in a city has pedestrians. So we have a sea of bright yellow signs instead of a sea of dull yellow signs. You have the crosswalk ahead warning sign, and then the crosswalk, and then the second crosswalk on the other side of the intersection, and before and after those you have the bicycle signs that the councilors ordered to appear bike-friendly.

What are you going to do with a string of closely-spaced yellow signs vanishing into the distance? Can you read all the different messages and pay attention to each one?

Does anybody look at sign placement from a driver’s point of view?

Obviously not.

As a driver I can tell how we look at those signs. We ignore them like the rest of roadside clutter.

If everything is important, then nothing is.

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

Not an NMA Member yet?

Join today and get these great benefits!

Leave a Comment