Bad Road Signs and Markings

Hingham, Massachusetts

Few people are more polite and considerate than the good South Shore, Massachusetts folk. Still, unfortunately, in the town of Hingham, politeness has spilled over in the form of a road sign that could potentially cost people’s lives. Drivers are asked to “Please Show Courtesy To Side Street Traffic,” but what exactly does this mean?

The right of way is, of course, with traffic on the main road, and by law, any traffic at ‘Yield’ or ‘Stop’ signs must wait until the road is clear. So what exactly is it that this sign is asking of drivers? It can only be a formal request to turn the law on its head and allow the side street traffic to emerge. Purely in terms of good manners, this seems like a nice thing to do. But if, just once, a car on the main road slows or stops — in compliance with the sign — to let another vehicle emerge from a side street, and another car passes the first one or comes the other way, then there is the risk of a collision. Not all drivers who travel through Hingham are local, and despite the sign, they indeed cannot be expected to anticipate the unusual actions of those who comply with the novel request. And if, or should we say when such a collision occurs because of these signs, which unarguably do request a break away from basic road rules, then no matter how well intended, the people who advocated the characters will be directly responsible. One can only hope that no pedestrians will be in harm’s way at the time.

Elsewhere, signs can be downright confusing. What, for example, is an inexperienced driver meant to make of these three examples?

And some, of course, are impossible to read from the driver’s seat of a moving vehicle:


Way Wrong!


This sign doesn’t seem incorrect at first sight, but if you look at a map of Cape Cod, it becomes a different matter.

One mile from where this photo was taken, Orleans Center is near the south end of the Cape. Chatham is even nearer the south end and… erm… Provincetown is at the north end.

Given the vast number of tourists that visit the Cape each year, one must wonder how many have sat at this location, repeatedly rotating their maps and arguing with their spouses!

Photo copyright,  2003, Eddie Wren, and Drive and Stay Alive, Inc.

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