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Recognising Road Signs

Road signs play a fundamental role when it comes to driving. They warn of hazards and what to expect in the coming road; advise on direction, speed and distance; can save you time and money and, in more instances than you could ever know, will save your life. It is therefore incredibly important that motorists know what road signs signify.  With over 50 years of history and new ones propping up all the time, there’s a lot to learn and studies suggest that motorists are more likely to ignore a road sign if they don’t understand it.

There are easy ones to master and many that are self-explanatory which are often learnt immediately when you sit behind a wheel for the first time; a hump in the road, a cross to symbolise no entry, or particular numbers to indicate the maximum speed, for example.

However, there are a large number of signs that you will come across in your life as a driver that you will not know. The Highway Code lists the most common signs you can expect and is the best place to go for a bit of revision, but there will always be one or two that leave you scratching your head. Here are five of the world’s most bizarre and obscure – but common - road signs explained:

1.The Giant E – Brazil 

There is an argument that this road sign is slightly lost in translation rather than obscure, but it’s an important one. That giant ‘E’ that you can see ahead of you stands for the Portuguese verb ‘to park’ – Estacionamento. The same sign with a strike-through means you cannot park.

2.The Snowmobile Warning – Canada and Finland

There are few places in the world where you would check your blind spot to see if a snowmobile is approaching, but you’re not imagining it! The green circle with the sledge-looking vehicle is indeed a snowmobile. In these places it’s important that snowmobiles are treated with the same caution as motorbikes. 

3.The Mid-Crash Cyclist – Hong Kong

Nothing says ‘watch out for the irregular road surface’ like a cyclist at a 45 degree angle who is clearly headed for more than a scraped knee. Don’t ignore it if you’re in a car – you’re still at risk from loss of control or damage to your vehicle.

4.The Sun Shades – Russia

In Russia, there exists a sign with John Lennon-like sunglasses, which actually warns of ‘blind pedestrians’, rather than a shop for trendy glasses. This is an important sign which only seems obscure as a walking stick is used for the symbolism in the UK; proceed with extreme caution and always reduce speed and check your mirrors.

5.The Unbelievably Bumpy Road – United Kingdom

If you see a road sign depicting a lorry and its cab struggling over what looks like a sand dune, you’re going to be concerned. But don’t panic; the ‘lorry balanced on the hill’ sign really warns of potential grounding due to a level crossing or hump on a bridge. 


published: 06/05/2014 16:37:33

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