It’s the start of a new year, and most of you must have come back from long drives to and from provinces. Chances are that you made it home safe and sound, although a bit tired because of the traffic, because you and the drivers around you followed basic traffic signs and road signs. At least we hope so.
Road Signs: The Basics
In the Philippines, we have about 80 standard traffic and road signs. That’s a lot of street signs in any case, but they all need to be understood and heeded for the safety of everyone on the road. Besides, most of these are standard signs anywhere in the country, or even across countries.
Anyway, one trick to more easily understand signs and what they generally tell is to look at the shape. A triangle sign (except for one, more on that later) or a diamond sign warns about road conditions ahead. The square or rectangle signs denote information like where the nearest hospital area or exit way is. A circle sign denotes regulations and restrictions.
Regulatory Signs: Do This, Not That
These circle-shaped road signs tell you what you can and can’t do on that part of the road. Mostly on the can’t part, particularly for signs with the diagonal line that denotes a ban on the action denoted on the sign.
Road Sign #1: No Turning Signs
For instance, a street sign that has that red diagonal line over an arrow pointing left says that you shouldn’t turn left, lest you want to break the law and face the penalties. Same restriction applies when the arrow points to the right or is U-shaped.
Road Sign #2: No Entry
And then there’s this solid red sign, save for a white bar, whose message is simply “don’t enter.”
Road Sign #3: Keep Left and Keep Right
There are other circle-shaped road signs, mostly colored blue, that tell you what to do. For instance, a blue circle sign with an arrow that points bottom-left or –right, or sometimes both, tells you to maintain your lane. The two-arrow sign in particular is placed ahead of road splits.
Road Sign #4: Limits
There are also road signs that note limits on speed, or car length, width, height, or weight on a certain road. The red circle with a number inside it notes the speed limit on that road. That same red circle, when it has a weight measure inside it (like 5T for 5 tons), displays the load limit for the vehicle and prohibits heavier vehicles from that road. When that circle has a length measure (like 2m for two meters) and black triangles on each side, the traffic signs denote the maximum width of the vehicle allowed on that road.
Road Sign #5: Stop and Yield Signs
There are two special-shaped signs: an octagon, almost exclusively used for the “STOP” sign, and an inverted triangle, for the “YIELD” sign that tells you to defer to oncoming traffic and only proceed when safe.
Warning Signs: Here’s What’s Ahead
These triangle road signs warn you about road conditions ahead. They’re mostly easy-to-understand, because the drawings on these signs demonstrate what’s ahead. Here are a few self-explanatory ones, as well as some less-self-explanatory ones with accompanying descriptions.
Road Sign #6: Traffic Lights Ahead
Road Sign #7: Pedestrian Crossing Ahead
Road Sign #8: Rotunda Ahead
To be clear, this sign does not tell you to spin around, but to be ready to enter a roundabout road.
Road Sign #9: Bumps Ahead
This sign is not a close-up of a camel’s back, but a warning to ready the brakes for the speed bumps ahead.
Information Signs: Here’s Where Stuff Are
These square- or rectangle-shaped street signs intend to inform about nearby facilities or other conditions ahead.
Road Sign #10: One Way
Perhaps the most notable of these rectangle signs is the “ONE WAY” signs for roads that only allow for one traffic direction. Ignore this and risk having to turn back or, worse, being fined thousands in Makati.
Road Sign #11: Bus Stop
More often than not, this sign restricts non-bus vehicles from parking near the bus stop area.
Road Sign #12: Gas Station Ahead
Aside from those two road signs and meanings above, which are almost as instructive as the regulatory signs, most square or rectangle signs are usually poster-like in purpose, mainly informative, until the time when you actually need to locate a nearby gas station…
Road Sign #13: Restaurant Ahead
…or the nearest restaurant, because all that long distance driving made you really hungry.
Road Sign #14: Ped Xing
P.S. While we’re at the topic of rectangle signs, what the heck is this sign?
Trivia: This is one of the street signs that honor Ma Ped Xing, an 18th-century Chinese explorer who was the first pedestrian martyr due to the lack of street signs during his time. In commemoration and honor of his sacrifice, cities around the world put his name across a lot of their streets, Up to this day, this sign is used to denote areas where pedestrians can cross the street safely.
[Disclaimer, only the last sentence is true. Just so we’re clear.]
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