Chapter 13

Communication between other drivers, the traffic signals that control flow, and traffic signs that warn and alert are all vital to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Knowing what road symbols, markings and signs mean cannot be a luxury or afterthought. This knowledge will make you a more conscientious driver.


1. Yellow/Warning signs - These signs warn of an upcoming hazard or change in road conditions and do not refer to present conditions. They are yellow in color and diamond-shaped. Yellow warning signs mean you should slow down and beware of extraordinary situations. Here is a little GAME to help refresh your memory of these signs.

2. Stop signs - A stop sign requires that you make a full stop prior to entering a crosswalk or an intersection. You must stop before the white limit line that is normally displayed or painted on the streets, or if a limit line is not present, prior to the corner. This sign is in the shape of an octagon and is red and white in color. It is wise to check for pedestrians or unexpected traffic before proceeding forward. You must stop completely to obey the law, and yield to opposing traffic. Make sure it is safe to pull away from a stop sign no matter how long you may need to wait prior to proceeding. An intersection (of any kind) is the most dangerous place on the roads, so stop signs must be obeyed to help prevent cross traffic collisions.

3. Yield signs - These signs require you to slow down and allow traffic, bicycle riders or pedestrians to pass before proceeding. This sign is in the shape of a triangle. The yield sign is a signal to slow down and be prepared to stop, if necessary, and let other vehicles proceed first. Do not forcibly merge your vehicle into traffic if a yield sign is present and other vehicles have the right-of-way.

4. Merge signs -These signs warn you that the lane in which you are driving will be merging into another, requiring extra caution and the possibility of a speed reduction or increase. Merge signs call for extra courtesy to those who will be merging into your lane. This sign is in the shape of a diamond (as are all other warning signs).

5. Regulatory signs - These signs instruct you of actions that must be obeyed immediately. Many of these signs call for an immediate slowing of the vehicle and heightened awareness of upcoming obstructions. Most of these signs are white in color.

6. Do Not Enter - This sign warns that entrance onto this roadway will be directly in conflict with oncoming traffic. If you ignore these signs, you will be driving the wrong way.

7. Construction Signs - These signs are normally orange in color and warn of a construction or maintenance area.

8. Motorist Services - These signs are blue in color and alert you to service areas such as rest stops.

9. Recreational Signs -These brown signs alert you to areas of public recreation and possible cultural interest.

Remember, these shapes always tell you the following:

Control Lights

Control lights (signals) are in place to alert you of actions on the road that may or may not be permissible. The following are some of the more common control lights and their meanings:

1. Red -You must make a complete stop at a red light. A red light calls for an immediate stopping of a vehicle, as it would no longer have the right-of-way. (A right turn may be completed on a red light if there are no signs prohibiting it, but you must first yield to pedestrians and other vehicles. However, it is always illegal to turn if there is a sign displaying "no turn on red.")

2. Flashing Red - A flashing red light has the same meaning as a stop sign. You must make a complete stop and then proceed only when it is safe to do so. It is important to observe the right-of-way rules.

3. Yellow - A yellow light warns that a red light is imminent. It does not call for a speed increase or reduction, but requires extra caution and awareness. Many factors must be considered when a decision is made to proceed or not on a yellow light. Vehicle speed, the speed of other vehicles, and the density of traffic, among others, must be factored into your decision.

4. Green -A green light allows you to proceed yet requires an awareness of all other vehicles and pedestrians on the road. (You should never proceed, despite a green light, unless it is safe to do so. When making a left turn on a green light, you must ensure there is enough time and space to complete the turn prior to conflict with other vehicles or road hazards.)

5. Red Arrow - A red arrow is essentially a red light signifying that a turn may not be made against the red arrow. The light must turn green or a green arrow must illuminate before you may proceed. This arrow normally only alerts drivers in the left or right turn lanes.

6. Green Arrow - The green arrow allows you to make a turn and assumes you have unobstructed use of the highway. There should be an awareness, however, of oncoming vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians. There should be no presumption of right-of-way based solely on the green arrow. A green arrow facing down indicates that you are allowed to drive in that lane.

7. Red X - This signal indicates a lane where you cannot drive during certain hours.

8. Yellow X - This signal indicates that you should move out of the lane as soon as it is safe to do so.

9. Flashing Yellow X - This signal above a lane indicates that you may use the lane to make a left turn.



Parking seems simple enough. There can't possibly be a way to do this maneuver illegally or recklessly, can there? Think again! When you park your car, you should never block traffic or leave your car in any of the following situations:

To prevent a runaway vehicle when parked headed downhill, you should turn the front wheels towards the curb, and the parking brake should be set. When parked headed uphill, turn the front wheels away from the curb, with one of the front tires touching the curb. Also set the parking brake.

When parking your car, be considerate of other people. Sometimes drivers try to fit into a tight spot between two parked cars and then dent the sides of either or both vehicles when trying to leave their own cars. If you hit another parked car, you must either try to find the owner or leave a note with your name and address. Drive carefully when parking and observe the same rules for driving in any other situation.


Before you get behind the wheel:

1. Have a Clear Head. Make sure you always have a clear head before deciding to operate a motor vehicle. Alcohol and certain drugs, both illegal and legal, can severely impair your driving skills. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause dangerous drowsiness. Get a good night's rest and don't drive for long stretches without a break. If you are tired, don't risk the safety of yourself and others on the highway by trying to drive. Just as with alcohol, designate a driver or choose another means of transportation such as a taxi or public transportation.

2. Limit Driving Alone When Tired. Driving with someone else in the car can increase your overall alertness. It is well-recognized that when driving alone, especially when sleep-deprived and at night, your chances of a crash are dramatically increased.

3. Read the Labels. If you are taking medications, be sure to read and obey the warning labels. IF the label says the medication causes drowsiness or not to drive--heed the warning and don't drive. The warnings are there for a reason. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or to ask about medications for your condition that don't cause drowsiness.

4. Plan Ahead. Allow yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination and for emergencies or traffic jams. In today's busy world, most of us are in a hurry to get where we are going. By allowing extra time, we can be more relaxed when operating our vehicles and thereby cut down on the incidences of road rage, such as excessive speeding, tailgating and weaving in and out between cars.

5. Research Safety Features. Safety should always be a top priority when shopping for a vehicle. Research the safety performance of any vehicle you are considering buying, including how the vehicle performs in crash tests. Both driver and passenger side air bags are now mandatory in all new cars. Look for side impact bags in many new models as well. When buying a used vehicle, look for one with air bags. Research what type of safety systems are in the car and choose the safest to protect you and your loved ones in the event of a collision.


6. Relax. Avoid aggressive driving by relaxing and having patience. By not being in such a rush to reach your destination, you will be a calmer person and won't feel the need to speed and run red lights. A yellow light means slow down, not speed up. Always stop at red lights.

7. Be Alert To Signs of Fatigue. If you start to feel tired when driving, pull over in a safe area and let someone else drive. If you are alone, pull into a safe location, such as a well-lit rest stop, and take a short nap, or get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes. Stop as often as necessary. When traveling on long trips, eat light. Large, heavy meals can make you drowsy.

8. Practice Common Sense Safety Rules. Always wear your safety belt and make sure all your passengers are buckled properly, even on short trips. If traveling with children, educate yourself on the many kinds of child safety seats and restraints available. Choose which system is best for your child and always follow the directions. Make sure children ages 12 and under are always buckled up in the back seat, the safest place to ride.

9. Keep Your Eyes On the Road. Avoid taking your eyes off the road by eliminating any possible distractions ahead of time. Before setting out on a drive, be sure that important items are within easy reach, i.e. directions and maps, sunglasses, etc. Reduce to a minimum possibly dangerous diversions of your attention from the tasks of safe driving, such as changing tapes or compact discs, and always pull over to a safe place to use your cellular telephone.