When high­way signs cry wolf

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - Bob Hys­lop Clarenville

More of­ten than not the signs just cry wolf. Even­tu­ally, they lose their mean­ing al­to­gether and some­one gets hurt.

High­way con­struc­tion sea­son is upon us again and I thought I’d start the an­nual dis­course over it.

My only prob­lem is the wild in­con­sis­tency of tem­po­rary sig­nage warn­ing of un­usual ac­tiv­ity ahead.

Here are some ex­am­ples to il­lus­trate my point.

One evening last sum­mer, the ra­dio warned mo­torists trav­el­ling the TCH near Goo­bies that there was a scratch and patch op­er­a­tion go­ing on there caus­ing traf­fic de­lays.

We were head­ing that way. At Arnold’s Cove we came upon the usual gag­gle of signs telling us of per­ils ahead.

Signs like: Con­struc­tion Ahead; two 50kph signs (one an alert for the other); a car with one side higher than the other; a mo­tor­cy­cle on a curvy sur­face; don’t pass other cars; a man with a shovel; an­other man with a stop sign (that man is usu­ally a wo­man); there will be a Roast Beef Sup­per at the Fire Hall in Come by Chance on Fri­day night (just kid­ding) and then - my favourite - one telling me I will be fined $1,500 if I don’t heed any of the oth­ers.

I was sus­pi­cious (I’ll tell you why in a minute) so I set the trip odome­ter to zero and too­tled along a 50kph. (I do as I’m told!)

By Sun­ny­side 10-15 cars had passed me do­ing 100 kph or more, so I fol­lowed suit at the end of that line.

My rea­son­ing for in­creas­ing speed was that surely one of them will get caught be­fore I do. Then, 15.5 kilo­me­tres later, we are ap­proach­ing that curve where the Lodestar Inn used to be and the cars in front are screech­ing to a pan­icked halt.

Just around the bend the road is blocked with scratch­ers, patch­ers, rollers, dump trucks, in­nu­mer­able pick­ups and work­ers ev­ery­where.

Surely you could rea­son­ably ex­pect to come upon such ac­tiv­ity within half a kilo­me­tre of the signs warn­ing you about it. Two to three kilo­me­tres later and you don’t be­lieve them any­more like all the peo­ple who passed me; 15.5 km later and you have for­got­ten all about the signs.

I was sus­pi­cious in the first place be­cause it was well af­ter 5 p.m. by the time we got to Arnold’s Cove. Fre­quently when they clock off for the day they park their equip­ment on side roads and go home, leav­ing all the signs up overnight.

There­fore, the au­to­matic as­sump­tion is that signs af­ter quit­ting time “Don’t mean Nut­tin!”

But some­times they do.

More of­ten than not the signs just ‘cry wolf.’ Even­tu­ally, they lose their mean­ing al­to­gether and some­one gets hurt. Some­one else gets a $1,500 fine.

That hurts, too.

There was a novel use of the signs this past win­ter. Work was be­ing con­ducted on re­lin­ing cul­verts. It all took place off the high­way. As far as I could see there was no dan­ger and there­fore no need to slow down.

Some­one else must have thought the same as only one sign was posted. It warned you of whop­ping great fines but why was left un­said. You weren’t even in­structed to slow down.

How, may I ask, are you sup­posed to re­act to that?

I ap­plaud the gov­ern­ment for the de­ci­sion to put up speed cam­eras at con­struc­tion sites but that only ad­dresses half the prob­lem.

What is needed is a clear and con­cise set of rules gov­ern­ing the use of signs at th­ese sites.

Th­ese rules should be pub­lished so that mo­torists, con­trac­tors and po­lice are all well in­formed. Then if any of the signs are used in a way sim­i­lar to what I have just de­scribed the po­lice should is­sue the con­trac­tor a $1,500 fine.

Oh and my apolo­gies to the non-baby boomers in your au­di­ence - the Lodestar Inn went out of busi­ness in the late 1960s!

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