Very few people in the world are more polite and considerate than the good folk of the South Shore, Massachusetts, but unfortunately in the town of Hingham that politeness has spilled over in the form of a road sign which has the potential to cost people’s lives. Drivers are asked to “Please Show Courtesy To Side Street Traffic,” and yet 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 — in order 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 truly cannot be expected to anticipate the unusual actions of those who do 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 signs will be directly responsible. One can only hope that there will be no pedestrians in harms 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 simply impossible to read from the driver’s seat of a moving vehicle:
This sign doesn’t seem incorrect at first sight, but if you look at a map of Cape Cod it becomes a different matter.
Orleans Center, one mile from where this photo was taken, is near the south end of the Cape. Chatham is even nearer thesouth end and… ermm… Provincetown is at the north end.
Given the huge 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 spouse!
Photo copyright, 2003, Eddie Wren, and Drive and Stay Alive, Inc.
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