10 Most Confusing Traffic Signs
December 27, 2011
We all know that traffic signs do an important job: they tell us what exactly we can or can’t do on the road. But what if the signs were confusing? Sometimes this leads to funny stories afterwards, other times it leads to tragedy, as a misunderstood sign may sometimes lead to crashes.
These signs, wherever state they may show up, must be approved by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). They create the standard by which all signs could be installed, maintained, and managed by road managers everywhere. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
Here then, is a list of some of the more … confusing traffic signs that are currently out there.
Yield – The red upside-down triangle sign, or sometimes, a simple verbal instruction to “YIELD”? It’s surprising just how many people get confused with this sign. The best way to describe it is it’s like a lighter version of the STOP sign. When faced with this sign, motorists should stop, give way to vehicles from another approach and then enter an intersection. These usually appear in smaller roads that don’t get enough traffic that they don’t necessarily need a STOP sign.
Runaway Vehicles Only – But what if you weren’t running away? This sign signifies that a runaway device is installed in an area. This is usually for trucks that have lost control — the device is usually a patch of road with sand or gravel, which helps vehicles come to a safe stop. The gravel or sand allows the momentum of the big vehicle to dissipate, allowing for safe stopping.
This Side of Sign – This sign signifies that something is allowed on “this side” or the side where the sign is installed. A variation of this sign may say “Parking This Side of Street.” This means that one may only park on that specific side and parking elsewhere may give you a parking ticket.
To Request Green Wait On [Bicycle symbol] – Blame it on confusing wording. This sign is supposed to give bikers a green light. This sign should be used in conjunction with traffic actuators that are adjusted to the amount of metal a bicycle has. If you’ll notice, there is a vertical line going on the top and bottom of the bicycle symbol. This means that bikers should position themselves in the designated marking for them to be detected by the actuators, giving them a green light. Some people confuse this as waiting for bicycles to ride by until they can get a green light.
Look <—-> – Looking left-to-right? Isn’t that what parents and preschool teachers teach kids before crossing the road? This sign is usually located near railways, signifying that motorists should be on the lookout for trains from both directions.
Truck Rollover – Nope this sign doesn’t signify the truck-wheelie lane — it only means that there is a slope nearby that truck drivers should be aware of, since there’s a big tendency for their vehicles to rollover.
Circular Intersection – Though it bears a striking resemblance to the recycling sign, this sign simply signifies that a circular intersection is coming up. Some circular intersections are different. In some cases, the entering vehicles have the right-of-way, while the vehicles inside the circle must yield. Sometimes this is reversed, so drivers have to do a bit of research before they go right through.
Stop Ahead – Stop vertically? No — this is simply a sign that signifies that there will be an oncoming stop. A sign for a sign, perhaps?
9% Grade – The roads aren’t trying to quantify your reading level or your abilities with math. This only means that there is an oncoming 9% Grade slope. Slopes on the road are measured in grades: consider that 9% is 9-feet off a hundred. It means that elevation may change from 5 (5% Grade) to 9 (9% Grade) feet.
DIP – Motorists have to wonder: how exactly are they going to “dip” their cars? This simple sign that says “DIP” means that there will be a dip in the road: parts of the road may go down, and then elevate right back up again.
Having trouble with learning the Roads of the Road and Traffic Signs? Take a DMV Practice Test to become an expert and pass your DMV written exam the first time.
Tips for Safely Changing Lanes During your Road Test
December 14, 2011
While taking your road test, the examiner may ask you to change lanes. Changing lanes is not a simple operation and the examiner will be looking to see if you follow all of the proper procedures to ensure that you change lanes safely.
Here are some tips on how to safely change lanes:
Assess the situation on the road ahead. Are there other vehicles trying to merge into your lane? Are there pedestrians ahead who are about to cross? Should you even change lanes? A big thing to look out for are vehicles in the lane you are about to change into flashing their brake lights or slowing down, it might indicate that there’s trouble in that lane and that changing lanes wouldn’t be worth it.
Use the rearview mirror to check motorists behind the vehicle. Check all of your mirrors before changing lanes. Is anyone behind you or in the far lane preparing to move into the lane you want to enter? Are there vehicles speeding up to get in on the lane you’re trying to change into?
Make a habit of always signaling other drivers about what you’re about to do on the road. Letting other motorists know your intentions will keep both you and them safe. This is especially true for changing lanes – drivers behind you have to make their driving decisions based on what you do. Make a habit of always giving signals for everybody’s benefit.
Check your blind spot before moving in. Before changing lanes, quickly turn your head with your chin over your shoulder to check your blind spots. It’s amazing how quickly a vehicle can move up and totally disappear in your blind spot.
When it comes to intersections, only change lanes before or after passing them. Remember, it is illegal to change lanes within 100 feet before or after an intersection.
For more practice consider taking a simulated behind-the-wheel online prep course offered through OfficialDMV.com.
Beyond the Breathalyzer; Testing Drivers For Drugs
November 21, 2011
Concateno, a company made up of several drug and alcohol testing labs and manufacturers throughout Europe have announced the development of a simple hand held road-side testing device that police can use to test drivers for the presence of drugs.
While drugged driving doesn’t get as much press as driving under the influence of alcohol, it is a serious problem and apparently, drug use among drivers is just as prevalent as alcohol use. According to the Concateno press release, an Australian study showed that 35% of drivers hospitalized after a crash showed the presence for illicit drugs compared to 29% testing positive for alcohol.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), latest study on drugged driving showed that among the total number of drivers who were killed in car crashes in 2009, 18% tested positive for drugs. Those figures don’t represent the depth of the problem because not every state tests for the presence of drugs. Among the fatally injured drivers who were tested, 33% showed the presence of drugs in their system at the time of the crash.
A 2007 study by NHTSA showed that at least 16% or one out of every six weekend nighttime drivers tested positive for the presence of drugs. The 2008 Monitoring The Future Study, an ongoing annual assessment of drug and alcohol use by high school students showed that, among the respondents, one in ten high school seniors reported driving after smoking marijuana within the two weeks before the interview.
The new hand-held device tests a single oral fluid sample and can, within five minutes, test for the presence of cocaine, cannabis, opiates, amphetamines and methamphetamines. A previously developed device made by the same company has been used by police forces in Italy, Spain, Australia and Croatia. The new device has not been approved yet for use in the United Kingdom but there is strong public pressure to add it to law enforcement’s arsenal of weapons against drunk and drugged driving.
In Australia, where the device has been used for some time, officials report that, over the past five years, the number of drivers charged with driving under the influence of drugs has dropped by half.
This is a device that American law enforcement agencies may want to consider adding to their equipment list to more effectively remove drugged drivers from America’s roads.
Effectiveness Of In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems For Teen Drivers
November 9, 2011
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted an interesting experiment in 2009 that tested the effectiveness of various in-vehicle monitoring systems on teen drivers. The study monitored the driving habits of 84 teen drivers with different types of in-vehicle technology to determine which ones had the greatest effect on both the teen drivers and their parents.
IIHS installed their own monitoring equipment in the study vehicles that recorded when drivers braked sharply or accelerated suddenly, didn’t use belts, and exceeded speed limits. The monitors used GPS and a satellite modem to transmit the data to a central processing facility and the data was made available for parents to review. In addition to its own monitoring systems, IIHS also installed different types of in-vehicle monitoring that are commercially available to parents of teen drivers. The 84 subjects were randomly assigned into four groups:
“Drivers in groups 1 and 2 heard audible alerts for risky maneuvers. A short, low-pitched buzz sounded for sudden braking and acceleration. A continuous low-pitched buzz sounded when the belt wasn’t buckled and stopped only when it was fastened. Speeding triggered a single beep at 2.5 mph over the posted limit, followed by continuous beeps at increasing pitch and frequency when the teenage drivers exceeded the limit by more than 10 mph.” For drivers in group 1, the information was immediately recorded and transmitted to the parents for review. The drivers in group 2 had the opportunity to correct their behavior and, if corrected within 20 seconds, prevent a report from being sent to their parents.
There were no in-vehicle alerts for drivers in group 3, just website notification. Group 4, the control group, was monitored but had no alerts or web notification.
The different types of monitoring systems included:
- Basic systems: CarChip Pro – http://www.carchip.com/Products/8226.asp, CarChipPro is essentially a black box that plugs into the car’s diagnostic recorder. The system can record speed, mileage, and other data. Once the information is downloaded, it provides parents with a history of the teen’s driving. The system may also be set to turn into an alarm if certain speeds are reached or if the driver is braking too hard. The system is a tool to help discuss a teen’s driving habits by allowing parents to show them the facts, and how to correct their driving behavior.
- GPS-based systems: Inthinc’s Tiwi – http://www.inthinc.com/products/tiwifamily This system monitors drivers in real-time by providing in-vehicle, verbal feedback to the driver when they are speeding, not wearing their seat belt or driving aggressively. Also, parents can be notified immediately of unsafe driving behavior (through text, voicemail or email) and all info is reported through an Internet-based portal for later review and discussion between parent and teen. This system gives teens a chance to correct their behavior before their parents are notified.
- Video systems: DriveCam: Teen Safe Driver Program package – http://www.drivecam.com/, This in-car camera system records “risky driving behavior” and sends them to DriveCam for third-party assessment of a teen driver’s skills. The reports are then sent to parents, who can discuss the driving behavior with their teen.
- Smart keys: MyKey – http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29172, First seen on the 2010 Ford Focus, the MyKey system is designed to help parents set certain limitations on their Ford vehicles for when their teens are driving. With the configurable key, this system is designed for parents who share their cars with teen drivers. Ford has announced that this technology will be available in all Ford vehicles beginning in 2012. The key features are:
- Do Not Disturb, prevents use of cell phone and texting while the car is in motion.
- Speed Control, limiting the top speed of the Ford vehicle to 80 mph.
- Volume control, which allows parents to set a maximum volume level for the car’s radio.
- Beltminder, an alarm system that mutes the radio and plays a chime every 6 seconds, every minute or every 5 minutes when the seatbelt is unbuckled.
- Fuel reminder: alerts the teen that they need to refuel, when fuel is low.
The results of the study were as follows:
- Seat belts – Seat belt use was already at a 94% level when the study began but increased among all four groups when the drivers were faced with a continuous buzzing or chiming noise. This has been found to be effective among all age groups.
- Stops and starts – Sudden braking and rapid starts can indicate aggressive driving or inattention to the driving environment. Sudden stops and starts fell in all groups relative to the control group but was especially significant group 1 with immediate web notification to their parents. The effects were even greater among those whose parents received periodic report cards.
- Speeding – Speeding was the most prevalent risky behavior noted among all groups. Speeding up to ten mph over the posted speed limit fell among the groups with alerts in their vehicles but then started to rise over time. Speeding was only significantly reduced among the groups whose parents were notified or those who had a chance to correct the problem before parental notification.
- All risky behaviors – Risky behaviors declined most among the two groups with parental notification but were most noticeable among group 2, the ones who had a chance to correct their behavior before parental notification. Risky behavior was somewhat higher in group 1, apparently because it was too late to correct the behavior and their parents were going to be notified anyway.
Parents will want to consider the results of this study when choosing an in-vehicle monitoring device for their teen driver.
Remember the Time Change Can Affect Your Driving
November 2, 2011
It’s that time of the year again; time to fall back and set the clocks to Standard Time. The time change can cause disruptions while our mind and body adapt to the new time and that disruption can extend to our driving.
Changing back from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time occurs on the first Sunday in November and that falls on November 6th this year. The time change officially happens at 2:00 AM on Sunday November 6th. Falling back means setting the clock back one hour; at 2:00 AM set your clocks back to 1:00 AM. The great thing about falling back is that we all get an extra hour of sleep on Saturday night. Those who don’t get the word will probably arrive at church an hour early and wonder where everyone is or why that football game hasn’t started yet.
The time change is always somewhat confusing because it takes our minds a few days to adapt to the new change. Those of you who are used to waking up and beginning your morning commute in the dark will be waking up to the sunrise. Those who enjoy the extra sunlight after work will be getting home in the dark.
The time change in the fall isn’t as disruptive as the spring time change. In spring we lose an hour of sleep and sleep experts say that losing even one hour of sleep can have an impact on our driving and driving while drowsy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. However, even though we aren’t going to lose any sleep, our driving can still be affected because of the time it takes our internal clock to adjust to the change.
Our internal biological clock or circadian rhythm regulates our wake sleep cycle. It was easy before clocks were invented; we woke up at dawn and we went to sleep when it got dark. Sleep experts also say it is natural for us to become sleepy in the late afternoon. In the modern world, our days are regulated by the clock and that mechanical clock can sometimes come into conflict with our biological clock. Some sleep experts suggest that we follow the example of Mediterranean cultures and allow employees to nap in the afternoon in order to gain maximum performance. When we force ourselves to remain awake through that natural afternoon drowsy time, it can lead to drowsiness behind the wheel on the long commute home. One survey of drivers found that more than one-third (35%) of drivers who nodded off while driving within the previous six months say their last experience occurred between 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. An additional 17% report they nodded off between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
A study using mice (that also has implications for humans) found that when circadian rhythm cycles were disrupted, the mice didn’t perform as well in maze tests as the control group whose circadian patterns weren’t disrupted. They also exhibited impulsive behavior which, for human drivers, can mean trying to beat that light or pulling out in front of another car. When darkness suddenly falls an hour earlier, drivers may find themselves driving a little faster; trying to get home before daylight fades.
Another problem occurs because light conditions at dusk – before total darkness – can be confusing. Shapes that show up clearly in daylight or in a car’s headlights may not show up as clearly at dusk. A study conducted in 1995 found that the number of auto/pedestrian crashes increased substantially in the period following the time change back to standard time. Kids are still walking home from practice or trying to get in a little extra playing time with their neighborhood pals before total darkness. A University of California trauma center found a “62 percent increase in the number of children in auto-vs-pedestrian crashes and auto-vs.-bicycle crashes in the two weeks following the October time change. Of these victims, 90 percent had severe injuries and required surgery.”
Until their body clock adjusts to the new time, drivers should be especially cautious during the first few weeks after the time change. Get plenty of sleep, don’t give in to the impulse to rush home to beat the sunset, and be especially watchful for pedestrians.
Drowsy driving prevention week is Nov.6 – 12. For more information on sleep and sleep disorders, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s web site at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/