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Defensive Driving Tip 12 – Traffic Signals & Signs

Now anyone who has received a driver’s license has studied the Driver Safety Handbook and taken a written test which covered traffic lights and road signs, but it is amazing and even a little scary how many of these signs get ignored on any given day.

Thousands of accidents could be avoided annually if people just paid more attention to lights and signs and what they mean.

But it’s pretty obvious that many drivers don’t understand all the traffic signals and road signs that they encounter. How many times have you been at an intersection with a four-way stop sign where the drivers are confused about what to do? Or seen drivers sit at a flashing red or yellow light with obviously no idea who has the right of way? So a little refresher course over the signs and signal lights that you covered so long ago in driver’s ed is a good idea. Take a few minutes to read what’s below just to make sure you stay better informed than all those other clueless drivers out there.


comedy guys defensive driving tips, signal lights and road signsGREEN: Obviously green means proceed in the traffic world, but it doesn’t mean punch it. Even if you have a green light, you should still look left and right before proceeding simply because a car might’ve been going to fast to stop at the red light, or they might not have noticed that their light had turned red and continued through it. Even though you have the right of way, don’t take it for granted. You don’t want to get into a collision no matter whose fault it is.

RED: In most every facet of life, here and abroad, red means Alert, Watch Out, Be Cautious, or Stop. When driving, red means “Stop”. So how come so many people have trouble heading this warning? Probably because they don’t want to stop or perhaps they think that it’s only a suggested warning. Comedy Guys Defensive Driving School must get a thousand students a year who don’t heed this warning. A red light or a stop sign is telling you to stop because you are generally at some type of intersection where the traffic from other directions needs to be allowed to move. Thousands of collisions happen annually because drivers don’t obey the red light of the stop sign. Many people tell our driving instructors that the chose to ignore it because no one was around. One student went so far as to say that their vehicle was totaled because it was one a.m. and no one was coming, so they ran the red light only to be hit by a dark car that didn’t have their lights on. He complained and complained until it was pointed out to him that if he had obeyed the sign, he wouldn’t have gotten into a wreck.

A red light tells a driver to stop and stay put until further notice, I.E., the green light, unless you’re making a right turn on red. (Where it’s allowed) The stop sign means to stop completely (three seconds) until it is safe to proceed.

YELLOW: Ask a driver what the yellow light means, and you generally get the same answer. “Speed up”. Actually, it means quite the opposite. The yellow light is a cautionary light telling the driver to “prepare to stop”. Comedy Guys students often try to use the excuse that they sped up in time to make the light, but the judge said no, because it means to slow down. Some people just ask for tickets. When the light turns from green to yellow, you should be preparing to stop. If it turns yellow when your car is just feet from the light, the wise thing is to go ahead and proceed through the intersection, but if the light turns yellow way before you reach the light, then go ahead and stop.

FLASHING RED: A flashing red light is the same as a stop sign. You must come to a COMPLETE stop before proceeding.

RED ARROW: Red arrows are for cars which are in turn lanes at the traffic light. If you have the red arrow, you should remain stopped until it turns green, even if the through traffic has the green light.


comedy guys defensive driving tips, signal lights and road signsSTOP SIGN: A stop sign is a red, octagonal-shaped sign that tells the driver to come to a complete stop before proceeding. The driver should stop just in front of the sign or pedestrian crossing, count to three, and make sure that no one is coming before proceeding. Many drivers believe that they don’t have to stop unless someone is coming. Many slow down and roll through the stop sign without coming to a complete stop. It’s called the old California Rolling stop. California, Texas, Florida, or Iowa, the California stop is a ticketable offense. FYI: Do not go over the pedestrian walkway line at a stop sign or a red light. That is also a ticketable offense. Remember, you MUST come to a COMPLETE stop at a stop sign before proceeding.

YIELD: A yield sign is a triangular sign whose color is…red and white. You were just about to say yellow, weren’t you? Well, you would’ve been wrong. In Texas, the yield sign hasn’t been yellow in almost thirty years, yet people will still argue with instructors that they are yellow. A yield sign means to yield to the traffic who have the right of way before proceeding.

PEDESTRIAN CROSSING: The pedestrian crossing sign is a yellow sign usually with a stick figure of a person walking painted on it. This is to signify that this is an area where people cross the street or road and any drivers should be aware of them.

CHILDREN CROSSING: This is another yellow, cautionary sign with two or more figures painted on it. This is to alert drivers that they are in or near a school zone. These signs are often posted close to residential areas as well.

ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD: When you see an orange diamond shaped sign, begin to slow down because this means that thee is construction ahead. Whether there are workers present or not, the driver needs to be cautious. Something is being done to the road and cars need to be aware of it. The road might become uneven or there might be a detour. If you don’t slow down in a construction zone, you might just find out the hard way what’s being done to it.

RAILROAD CROSSING: The railroad crossing sign is yellow, round, and has a big black ‘X’ painted across it with the letters RR also painted in black. This sign tells you that you’re coming to a railroad crossing. Pay EXTREMELY close attention to this sign. Most cities have red flashing warning lights and barricades that automatically drop when there is an approaching train. This isn’t always true for rural areas. Often times, there is only the sign, and if the driver ignores it, they could be in for quite a surprise.

HOSPITAL: Hopefully you’ll never need a hospital while you are driving, but if you do, look for a rectangular blue sign with white letters on it. This is the national sign for Hospital Ahead. Even if you couldn’t read, this…well, if you couldn’t read, you wouldn’t be reading this, but if you couldn’t read, you would still be able to understand what the sign meant…unless you couldn’t read AND were colorblind. These sign are located on both the highways and city streets.

SUGGESTED SPEED: Many of the instructors at Comedy Guys Defensive Driving are often asked why there is a yellow sign that says “40 m.p.h.” when the speed limit is 60 m.p.h. This is a suggested speed limit, usually seen before curves in the road or places where the drivers view might be limited. This means that yes, you are allowed to drive the 60 m.p.h., but the road changes a little and it is suggested that you slow down to the speed on the sign. If you don’t know what’s waiting for you around the curve, it might be wise to slow down. Some motor vehicles like vans and jeeps don’t do that well when rounding corners, so it would be advisable to slow down when you see the suggested speed sign.