The Risks of Ignoring a Yield Sign

Local yield sign ~ often ignored by MA drivers ~

Taken by my husband as I drove slowly by it on an exit ramp.
Taken by my husband as I drove slowly by it on an exit ramp. | Source

It is Important to Remember to Stop and Look

I have been driving for 30 years. I have driven in at least 10 states. While living in the city of Boston, I did not own a car, but now that I live 30 miles away, in an area without public transportation, I am compelled to drive a car. My goal while driving is to safely arrive at my destination, especially when my daughter is in the car. One of the pieces of advice I have taken from my mother is to drive defensively - meaning watch out for what everyone else is doing and work with that flow to keep my car, and all that is in it, safe.

The one issue I regularly encounter with my fellow drivers on the road is the assumption that the traffic already on the road, driving at or beyond the speed limit, has the responsibility to stop for those entering the traffic. They have forgotten why the Yield sign is placed at the top of the exit ramp, before the driver enters the acceleration lane. It is there to command them to drive slowly and look . Oncoming traffic is moving too fast to suddenly decelerate without causing an accident. Slowing down to a crawl and assessing the flow of traffic for a place to fit in is the safest action you can take, which is why it's the law. Although the presence of the Yield sign indicates that a driver need not come to a complete stop, as would a Stop sign, I often find it necessary to stop and wait for other cars to give me space to enter the right lane, especially when there are eighteen-wheelers barreling down the highway - and they do not slow down or stop for anyone smaller than they are!

There are several things that can happen if you fail to Yield at the entrance to a highway from an entrance ramp, which are basically different forms of the same basic tragedy: A car will hit you from behind.

Directly

The car that you cut in front of may not slow down sufficiently and hit you directly from behind. This could result in involving several cars in an accident, which would most likely cause injury to you or someone else. If all the drivers in the pile-up manage to escape the wreck unscathed, your cars surely will not. More cost will be incurred through needing to have your car towed and have the damage to your vehicle fixed by a mechanic. If you were on your way to an appointment, you will not make it. If you were on your way to work, you may lose your job for not showing up that day. So much damage will result in not waiting for ample room in oncoming traffic before moving in to join that flow.

Indirectly

The car moving at top speed in back of the car attempting to slow down for you may hit the decelerating car from behind. Even if the car in the far right lane and approaching the point where you are attempting to join the traffic slows down for you, the driver of the car in back of that person may not have left the obligatory car's length between her car and the one in front of her (in this case yours), so she is likely to slide into the back of the car that has slowed down, and push that car into yours as you enter the highway. This almost happened to me. The car in back of me blew his horn because I was forced to slow down for a car approaching I-495 without pausing to assess the traffic flow, and the sound of that horn startled me. Such a sudden sound could be a safety hazard itself, for it breaks concentration when it is needed the most - during a transition.

Accident Prevention

If you are at a Yield sign, entering the acceleration lane of a highway: Make sure you look through the window to your left, and use the side rear view mirror as your guide for timing your entrance onto the highway. Watch the proximity of the cars that are passing, and adjust your approach according to their speed and closeness. Occasionally, the driver may also communicate his intention to slow down or not through physical gestures.

If you are already on the highway when another car is approaching it from an exit: Most drivers choose to move over a lane to the left so that they do not need to deal with the accelerators at exits, especially those who do not exercise sufficient caution. This is a good idea if you have enough time before your exit because it gives the cars transitioning into the traffic flow space to enter without having to come to a complete stop. As a result, neither driver needs to worry about working around each other.

If you must remain in the right lane: Leave a car's length between you and the car in front of you. This will help prevent a collision by allowing room while you are adjusting your own speed if the driver in front of you must slow down without much warning. Such caution will maintain your own safety, that of your passengers, and of those in the other vehicles (potentially) involved.

The goal of traffic rules and signs is to give you a reminder of what to do when you are at the place you encounter them. They are put in designated places in response to research completed by transportation department studies, and placed there to keep all drivers safe. Please heed their message, as the rest of your fellow drivers are also giving their best shot at doing the same.

© 2010 Karen Szklany Gault

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