Understanding road signs

No, this is not a crash course in road signs. We all know what the signs mean, but there is more to them than meets the eye. Here's a quick guide to seeing the hidden information in road signs that should help most of us develop the skills needed to become smarter road readers.




The Red Circles of Doom

Road signs in red circles represent a rule of the road which should not be broken. But don’t just follow these rules out of fear of a fine, for they speak volumes about the road conditions that follow. For example, ‘Lower Speed Limit’ signs and ‘No Entry for Heavy Vehicles’ signs generally indicate a narrower road ahead or a residential area. One needs to keep their eyes open for the hazards that go hand-in-hand with such areas like a larger number of pedestrians on the road, denser vehicular traffic, etc. A ‘No Overtaking’ sign can indicate similar circumstances or even blind curves that make impossible to see whats coming from the other lane. ‘No Left’ or ‘No Right’ signs usually mean merges on to one-ways, which are usually faster flowing than roads with two-way traffic. One should stick to the left or right (depending on the traffic flow), preferrably coming to a halt before carefully merging with the road ahead. ‘No Honking’ signs are usually near hospitals, and it’s mostly just bad manners to blow your horn there.




The Cautionary Red Triangles

Red triangle signs are as clear an indication of upcoming road conditions as they get. A ‘Roundabout’ sign should prepare one to choose a side in advance depending on which side one wants to turn at the roundabout. Approaching crossroads and signals, one needs to be aware that traffic is going to be piling up and should be prepared for it. Even when there is no traffic at a crossroad, be prepared to slow down as some one might just cross you at speed, or worse, might even sideswipe you. One must heed particular caution at signs which indicate a merge from the left or right where someone might just merge in onto the main road where you’re driving without even the slightest bit of indication or caution. Look out for signs showing a break in the road divider, as it is a common spot for someone taking a U-turn straight into the side of road you’re driving on.





The Perplexing Blue Signs

The blue information signs are probably the trickiest to interpret. A sign showing an upcoming petrol pump indicates a possibility of vehicles suddenly slowing down to pull in for a fill, or even a vehicle suddenly pulling out of the pump after one. Bus stops are places crowded with people and if there is a bus in the vicinity, be extra careful. Rickshaw or taxi stands pose a hazard to petrol pumps where taxis or rickshaws might just pull on to the road without any warning.





The Curious Case of Parking Signs

P1 and P2 signs indicate what side of the road vehicles are going to be parked on, on a particular date. Even if you don’t see any parked vehicles on the road, be aware of the road and be particularly aware of the side on which they’re supposed to be parked on that particular day, especially coming around a blind turn. Steer away from vehicles under ‘No Parking’. There might just be a police truck rushing in to pick them up.


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