After reading Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt I’ve become hyper-aware of the amount of signs drivers are expected to read while driving. I’m not talking about advertising, which you’re free to ignore, but official signs that are supposed to provide important information. The roads are so overloaded with unnecessary signs we’ve mostly just learned to ignore them. For all but a few hours each day there are no children playing near any given “Children Playing” sign. How many times have you seen these fallen rocks signs are always warning us about? So the more driving you do the more desensitized you become to these signs. You also learn what color signs that normally lie to you are, so you don’t even bother reading them.
And when a sign is needed they’re often so poorly implemented they don’t help anyway. Driving to the gym tonight I saw a new sign on 64 – “Right Lane Closed Ahead”. Curious, I thought, since the highway is about to split. Inconvenient too, since I need to go right at the split. “Keep Left”. Yeah, That’s not going to work for me. I wonder if they mean that if you go straight/left at the split (staying on 64) the right lane will be closed. That would make sense.
That’s not what they meant. If you go right at the split the road immediately splits again. I need to go right, right. The closed lane is on the short stretch of road you reach by going right, then left.
So by “Keep Left” they in fact meant “If you choose to ignore these Right Lane Closed Ahead signs and you get in the right lane anyway, then follow the split to the right, but stay to the left after that you’ll find the lane to your right is closed. Love, VDOT”
But that’s not a very good sign, either. So what should they have done? Nothing. Nothing at all. There really isn’t any sensible place on that road to put up signs notifying the small number of affected drivers of the lane closure, but they weren’t needed. In fact, they created a confusing and potentially dangerous situation at 70 MPH.