When highway signs cry wolf
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!