A huge part of earning your driver's license has to do with learning to read and respect signage on the road. From stop signs to construction warnings and speed limit signs, if you don't know and understand road signage, you're not going to get your license. And I know this, because my then-boyfriend-now-husband failed the signage portion of his driver's exam and had to redo the entire thing before he got his license (he'll be so happy I told that story).
And it's about more than looking at the sign ahead, it's about looking ahead, period. I'm reminded on a daily basis of the lack of driving skills we North Americans actually have compared to other countries. I think of my time driving in Germany and how well-behaved and controlled their drivers were. Traffic flowed smoothly in the city, in the country and on the open Autobahn (where brake lights were rarely seen and everyone had the utmost respect for everyone else, no matter how fast they were going).
I feel like we have a serious lack of driver education here. We're absentminded drivers – and I'm not just talking about cell phones and text messages and music. We don't pay attention. We don't anticipate. We don't look ahead. We drive in a 2ft bubble around our cars. That's it. And it's a problem.
Case in point: My drive in to work one recent morning proved the uselessness of signage on today's roads when I came across an accident where a driver had failed to see the hundreds of orange striped cones and large digital arrow telling her to turn the wheel slightly instead of going straight. Instead, said driver chose to keep a straight line, plow through some cones and hit the large, digital lit-up arrow sign telling her to deviate slightly to the right.
Clearly not looking ahead.
And I've seen it time and time again, signs either mean nothing or are misread and an accident and/or traffic jam is caused because of it. From arrows to speed limits to U-turns, signs mean nothing to drivers. We just do what we want, when we want.
And that's just not right. We need to not only respect other drivers on the road, but we need to respect signs, markings on the road and we need to look further than our bumpers to assess what's on the road with us and how to handle it.
Had the driver who hit the arrowed sign this morning taken a moment to look ahead, she would have realized that the lane was simply inching to the right slowly, not ending (as most seem to think it is when they see the arrow, slamming on their brakes immediately).
How do we solve this signage issue? Well, for starters we need to beef up our driver schooling programs. In my opinion, North American testing standards are too relaxed. Sure, we don't have limitless stretches of roads like they do in Germany, but that shouldn't matter. We have extreme weather conditions (read: winter) and that alone should mean more attentive drivers with better skills than most.
Most of us think we're stellar drivers and it's everyone else that's the problem. I'm sorry to say, but there's more to safe driving than understanding that red means stop, green means go and yellow means speed up.
Yeah, I thought so.
|Photo: Sébastien D'Amour