Defensive driving is based on three key ideas: visibility, space and communication. This post contains important driving communication signs that you need to learn and implement for your safety and to reduce traffic crashes.
Transportation is a popular means of communication. It is essential for economic development of any nation or society. The increasing loss of lives, goods and services in Nigeria is usually due to drivers’ poor knowledge of the road signs, speed limits and other physical road conditions.
Driving involves a lot of physical and mental activities. A good private or commercial driver ought to have attended a driving school – where he/she would learn how to use the road, meaning of road signs and how to respect different categories of road users.
As a defensive driver, it is important that you let other road users know you are there and understand what you plan to do by observing the basic road signs and by communicating to them effectively – using your horn, your headlight, your hand signals and other emergency communication signs.
Below are common driving communication signs among drivers and road users that you need to know and use as a means of reducing road crashes and driving safely.
5 Important Driving Communication Signs
#1. Use of the Traffic Signs
Accidents often happen because one driver does not see another driver, or when one driver does something the other driver does not expect. The drivers’ failures to perceive the immediate nature of the road, the time and weather condition are some of the major contributory factors to road accidents.
Traffic signs and lane control signals were introduced to inform and remind drivers about the nature of the road and to maintain safe driving discipline in the drivers. Some drivers do not always pay attention to what is going on around them or what other drivers’ maneuvers means.
Traffic signs include regulatory signs, informative signs, warning signs, speed limits signs, stop signs, traffic lights, lane control signals and pavement markings. We have taken time to explain the different types of road signs in our Defensive Driving Course.
A driver should not only be familiar with each of the road signs, but also should recognize the special shapes, colours and meaning of each sign. This type of knowledge and its application would reduce road crashes to the barest minimum.
#2. Use of the Headlights
The horn is one of your means of communicating to other road users. People cannot see you unless they are looking your way. So using your vehicle horn can get their attention.
However, there are several occasions when you should not use your horn. Also, the horn is not intended to take the place of the brakes.
Sound your horn only to warn pedestrians, the cyclists or the drivers to others vehicles of your presence. Use it whenever it will help prevent an accident.
If there is no immediate danger or emergency, a light tap on the horn should be all you need. A loud horn can cause a cyclist or another driver to lose control.
Do not use your horn to harass or intimidate other road users. This is aggressive driving habit.
When to Use the Horn:
- When a person on foot or a bike appears to be moving in to your lane of travel;
- When you are passing driver who stop at your lane;
- When there is a driver who is not paying attention or may have trouble seeing you;
- When you are coming to a place where you cannot see what is ahead, such as exiting a narrow road or blind sport.
When Not to Use Your Horn:
- Encouraging someone to drive faster or get out of the way;
- Scolding another driver for an error;
- Greeting a friend;
- Near pedestrians who are blind.
- At posted “Quiet Zone” such as Hospitals, Churches or Mosques.
#3. Use of the Headlights
Besides helping you to see at night, headlights help other people see you too.
Remember to turn on your headlights whenever you have trouble seeing others. If you have trouble seeing them, they are having trouble seeing you too.
Turn on your head lights when it begins to get dark, not your parking lights. Parking lights are used for parked vehicles only.
Turn on your head lights on rainy or foggy days; it is some time hard for other drivers to see your vehicle. In these conditions, headlights make your vehicle easier to be seen.
You must turn on your low beam (dim) headlights when driving between sunset and sunrise, including during any rain, smoke or fog. Remember, if you turn on your wipers, turn on your headlights too.
#4. Emergency Communication Signals
You are advised to stay off the road if you hear the siren or see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles until you are sure the road is cleared.
Be prepared to stop, when approaching a stationary vehicle such as a police car, tow truck, ambulance, utility or maintenance vehicle that is parked alongside the road and displaying flashing lights.
You are required to make a lane change if possible and slow down to a reasonable speed for the existing conditions.
If your vehicle breaks down on a highway, make sure that other drivers can see it. Accidents often occur because a driver did not see a stalled vehicle until it was too late to stop.
Put on your Hazard Lights, also known as emergency lights or ‘double trafficators’.
The hazard lights are not meant to signify going straight or crossing intersection as most drivers think. They are strictly for emergencies and should NOT be used as such.
Here are some guidelines if you are having vehicle trouble and have to stop.
- If possible, get your vehicle off the roadway, from traffic.
- Turn on your emergency flashers or hazard lights to show you are having trouble.
- If you cannot get your vehicle off the roadway, stop where other drivers can have a clear view.
- Do not stop just over a hill or curve.
- Try to warn other road users to change lanes on time if necessary.
- Place the emergency warning sign behind the vehicle and at a reasonable distance too.
- Open up your bonnet.
- If the roadways have telephone number to call in an emergency, use it to notify authorities that you or someone else has broken down.
- Find nearby road mechanics to help you.
#5. Using the Hand Signals
This one of the important driving communication signs used under special conditions.
Use the hand signals in addition to your turn signals when the sun is shining brightly and when vehicles immediately behind you obscure your turn signal.
The three hand signal means:
- Stop (when you bring your hand down)
- Left Turn (when you point to left direction)
- Right Turn (when you raise your hand to the right)
Wrapping up: Important Driving Communication Signs
Now you know the Important Driving Communication Signs that can help you drive safely, avoid accidents and serious injuries all the way.
Among other highway personnel in traffic controls; the Federal Road Safety Corps was set up in 1988 to help educate motorists and the generally public on the proper use of the roadways; and to prevent or minimize accidents on the highways.
According to Department of Transportation of the Great Britain Book: “traffic signs play a vital role in directing, informing and controlling road users’ behaviour in an effort to make the roads as safe as possible for everyone” (p.4).
We hope you will memorize these rules of the road and use them while driving or crossing?