Drivers, know the meaning of trafficsigns

September 12, 2018

It is my understanding that in the state of Connecticut a test is required to obtain a driver’s license, but people in New Milford seem to be unfamiliar with basic road signs and how they work.

Many years ago, driver education was taught in the public schools and included instruction on the purpose and use of such basic road signs as the STOP, MERGE and YIELD signs. I would guess that as such instruction is either taken privately or not at all, people are no longer learning such basics.

To that end, I would like to offer a quick review.

Let’s begin with the STOP sign. It’s shape is that of an octagon, meaning it has eight sides. It is red in color with a white boarder and the letters S T O P in white in the middle of the sign. These signs are generally posted at an intersection, or a place where two roads cross. When a driver sees this sign, the car should be brought to a complete stop. The car should be still. The car should cease to move. The driver should then check to make sure that it is safe to proceed through the intersection. The purpose of this sign, as with most signs, is to avoid collisions or accidents.

We have stop signs at both ends of the street I live on and yet we frequently have cars that fail even to slow down at these intersections. This creates a very dangerous situation, not only for other cars, but also for those of us who walk across these intersections as well as the children who ride their bikes in the area.

The next sign I would like to bring attention to is the MERGE sign. This sign is shaped like diamond, with four sides, with yellow coloring and boarded with black. While there are no letters on the sign, however, there is usually a picture showing two roads joining together to become one road. All traffic continues in the same direction. In this case, a car from each road should take a turn proceeding onto the single road. An example of this would be entering a highway. When the car approaches from the entrance ramp, it should be able to continue into the flow of traffic without having to stop.

Lastly is the sign called the YIELD sign. This sign is often confused with the MERGE sign, but it is actually quite different. The YIELD sign is shaped like an upside-down triangle, as in three sides with the top flat and the bottom of the sign pointed. There is a red border with white in the middle upon which are the letters YIELD. I believe the use of the red and white coloring are due to the fact that this sign is closer to a stop sign than a merge.

This seems to be the most commonly misunderstood sign in New Milford. This sign is used when one road is joining another road, but the main road has the right-of-way. When you approach a yield sign you should be able to see any vehicle approaching from the road you are joining. If it is safe, you may proceed. If it is not safe, you should STOP and proceed when safe. An example of this would be the newly opened roundabout at the intersection of Still Water and Pickett District. When entering the roundabout, a driver should slow down and continue into the roundabout if it is safe. Once in the circular area of the roundabout, however, the driver should NOT stop! This is not a merge! It is the responsibility of the driver wanting to enter the roundabout to enter safely when appropriate.

An example of misuse of the yield sign, is where northbound Route 7 turns to go across the bridge. Cars coming from every other entry to that portion of the road are often left in the middle of the intersection while people stop to let cars merge. This is a huge safety issue. People left in the middle of the intersection are in danger of being struck by other vehicles when the direction of traffic changes with the signal light.

If you have an interest in learning more about road signs, etiquette and general driver safety, check out www.roadtrafficsigns.com or go to the Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Sandi Kelly is a resident of New Milford.

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