Navigating the Road

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By understanding the messages of the road - signs, signals and pavement markings - you'll be a safer and more competent driver. The following information is taken from the driving guide "Read Your Road," written by the United States Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Pavement Markings: "White on your right."

The two colors used most frequently for pavement marking are yellow and white. White lines separate traffic traveling in the same direction and mark the right edge of freeways and ramps. If you ever see a yellow line on your right, you're going the wrong way!

Yellow lines generally separate traffic traveling in opposite directions and mark the left edge of divided highways and ramps.

The rules of passing

  • Double solid yellow center lines mean no passing is allowed in either direction.
  • A single dashed yellow center line means you are allowed to pass if the road ahead is clear.
  • A combination of solid and dashed yellow center lines has two meanings: If the dashed line is in your lane, you can pass. If the solid line is in your lane, you can't pass.

Traffic Signs

Given the high speeds required on freeways, recognizing signs by their shape and color with just a glance will put you in more control on any road.

Generally, warning signs are diamond-shaped, such as the lane added or merge signs. Signs that are colored blue carry information to highway users. A new color is being used for the pedestrian, bicycle and school crossing signs. It's called florescent yellow green, and it will convey the same message as yellow warning signs.

Although most freeway exits are on the right, some exits are on the left. Dangerous situations can be avoided by noticing the yellow left exit panel at the bottom of the freeway sign. Also, look for the small green exit number panel. If it's on the left side of the sign, your exit is also on the left side of the road.

When traveling in unfamiliar territory, state and interstate road numbers give you valuable clues to your location and direction.

  • One- or two-digit even-numbered interstates are always east-west routes. The numbers increase from south (I-10) to north (I-80)
  • Odd numbered one- or two-digit interstates are north-south routes. Their numbers increase from the west coast (I-5) to the east coast (I-95).
  • Mile-markers show the number of miles from where the route entered the state in which you are traveling. Their numbers increase as you travel east or north, and decrease as you go west or south.
  • Some states link interstate numbers to mile markers. For example, Exit 40 may be at or very close to mile marker 40.

Work Zones

In any work zone, expect the unexpected! Normal speed limits are reduced, traffic lanes may change and work vehicles may suddenly enter or leave the highway. Orange diamond-shaped warning signs are usually posted in advance of any construction. You may also see workers with flags or signs. FLAGGERS HAVE THE SAME AUTHORITY AS A REGULATORY SIGN, AND YOU CAN BE CITED FOR DISOBEYING THEIR COMMANDS.