QUICK. WHAT color are yield signs? Of course. They're yellow with black edging and lettering. Everyone knows that.
Last month, a number of readers commented on yield signs, in particular, the yield sign from the Route 100 west ramp onto Long Gate Parkway.
Ellicott City's Carl Whitmire responded to these comments, in particular, to Steve Clarkson, who said regarding yield signs and Maryland drivers: "Heck, most of them don't even know how to spell it. They view a triangular yellow sign as a challenge. ... "
"I had to chuckle after reading Steve Clarkson's response to the input from Seth Mann," said Whitmire. "Mr. Clarkson's quote made me wonder about Mr. Clarkson's own traffic sign knowledge. Hopefully he's not teaching drivers ed."
"He's got his shapes down, but needs to work on his colors," Whitmire continued. "Yield signs are red, not yellow. Have been for probably 20 years."
Mr. Clarkson, I'm in no position to make fun. Read on.
"Actually, are you sure they're red? If you know of red ones, let me know where so I can get them photographed," I immediately responded, via e-mail, to Mr. Whitmire. (I didn't bother to check - I know what color yield signs are.) "The yield signs near my home/office are all yellow, with black lettering. Red is for stop (with white lettering). Yellow is the universal color for caution."
Probably chuckling, he wrote back: "I would invite you to look more carefully. If we are both truly talking about real 'yield' signs, every one of them is a triangular shape, point down, and are red, with a white inside, and the word 'yield' is also in red. Perhaps you're thinking about the yellow, diamond shaped (not triangular) signs that have an 'arrow' lane merging into another arrow lane. That is not a yield sign, it simply informs the driver of something that is about to happen ahead. When you get to where it does happen, there is usually a yield sign, and I'll guarantee you it's red."
Then he noted: "The question 'What color is a yield sign?' is one of the most frequently missed questions on a driver's test, particularly when taken by an older person, because they used to be yellow."
Sure enough, yield signs are indeed red. That will teach me to check my facts before responding. But misery (and humiliation) loves company, so I tried an experiment.
I asked everyone, young and "older," I spoke with the next day what color yield signs are.
. Pat and Lisa, two hairdressers at Warfield's Barbershop, gamely answered, "yellow." As did two other Warfield patrons. And Chris, an employee at Safeway, and another employee at Target. Not to mention my day-care provider, assorted friends and neighbors, my parents, my sister and my husband.
Barry Schwartz of Ellicott City also answered "yellow," but then wondered, "No, wait, aren't they red? No, of course not."
Only a courier for a local printer, one of the oldest people I'd questioned, had it right, without hesitation.
When I told Carl Whitmire about the results, he answered: "The fact that so many people you've talked with got it wrong is one reason why 'eyewitnesses' are often so unreliable in jury trials. People think they've seen things clearly when in fact they haven't, or they get the facts wrong when retelling them."
Whichever color they are, what's important is that we know what to do when we see the signs: yield.
Sherri Kersey offers observations about drivers' behavior.
"I don't ask people to speed, but for goodness sakes, folks, go the speed limit," she said.
"And when you see a stop sign or come up to one of our not-so wonderful traffic circles, slow down enough so that those who have the right of way know you are going to stop (or yield, depending on where you are).
"Use your turn signals to change lanes and turn. Turning it on after you slow down or are in the turn is of no use whatsoever. Use those signals when you are at a traffic circle."
Kersey noted that offenders are especially bad at the roundabout at Cradlerock Way and Homespun Drive.
No longer a short cut between Route 103 and old town Ellicott City, New Cut Road in Ellicott City between Hillsborough Road and the entrance to Taylor Manor Hospital (which is pretty much all of it) will be closed until the end of August for water and sewer main construction. Detour signs are posted along New Cut, Montgomery, and Bonnie Branch roads and College Avenue to direct motorists.
What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at firstname.lastname@example.org. Technophobes can mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 5570 Sterrett Place, Suite 300, Columbia 21044, or fax 410-715-2816.