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Unhelpful Road Signs

picture of unhelpful road sign

Don't you usually expect road signs to be helpful? Yet how often do you see signs along the highway or in town that might as well not be there? One thing I have noticed about our part of the country is that, when you are driving on the highway, you are expected to remember the last sign you saw because, at the point you'll need the information (the exit), there's no sign to help you! For instance, you see a sign telling that the next exit on the highway is for Hwy SC 253, but when you get to the exit, the only thing on that sign is the exit number. If you didn't happen to notice and/or remember the sign a mile or so back, you would have no idea where this exit will take you.

I have driven quite a bit in France, and let me tell you, it's different! French drivers are ... shall I say ... intrepid? And some of the traffic laws are different. For instance there are many intersections with no stop signs or traffic lights. In that case, the person to your right has the right of way (priorité). Many of the road signs are what I call "International Illiterate Signs." Below are some that you might see in Europe (the home of the first road signs). Of course, the actual signs would be minus the words under them.

picture of European road signs

Many of those signs are easily understandable, but there are some that leave me wondering.

Worse yet in France are the signs Toutes Directions (all directions) and Autres Directions (other directions). Here's an example:

picture of helpful road sign

I may have missed the logic here, but it seems to me that if the sign Toutes Directions is indicating all directions, how can there even be other directions???

Below is a place in France that leaves you wondering why there isn't a "helpful" Toutes Directions sign pointing to the left.

picture of an overabundance of helpful road signs in France

Maybe that is their means of keeping down the speed of the drivers as they must go slowly enough to find the sign they need.

Our German friends Uwe and Diana are leaving Friday morning to do some sightseeing for a week in Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston. Here's a picture of them this evening, with "Ivman Central" in the background....

picture of Uwe and Diana

They, of course, are used to the wordless signs in Germany, and so if they see any, they will know what to do. They even have a GPS in their rental vehicle here to help them get around. But I hope they don't run across any signs like the ones below in which the words will cause more confusion than help.

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

Maybe their GPS will help them in situations like the ones below.

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

I'm sure some of you have funny experiences of driving in another country or of having to decipher unhelpful road signs. Please share them with us!


"Praising God is not closing your eyes to reality. It's lifting your eyes to reality." - Dr. Drew Conley

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The road to success always seems to be under construction.

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12 Comments on “Unhelpful Road Signs”

  1. #1 Suzanne Hood
    on May 15th, 2009 at 12:56 am

    I don’t usually comment, but I’ve greatly enjoyed your posts, and the one about the road signs was great. Here in Australia, sometimes we’re lucky to see a road sign when we really want one. We can drive for miles before we know what the speed limit is. And then when we approach a town (village, really — store with a couple of houses beside it), the speed limit slows suddenly and without warning. And as soon as you pass the last house (within 30 seconds), there’s another sign posted for the original (?) speed limit.

    One interesting sign that we’ve seen along the way from Albury to Melbourne is the name of a road: Carraragaramungee Road. I think I’m spelling that right! The Aboriginal names out here are hilarious! I think I may now know how to pronounce that, but the sign for it is quite long.

    In Melbourne (and in most of the “bigger” towns), they don’t post the name of the road you’re on. And sometimes they don’t post the name of the road you’re wanting to be on. Somehow, you’re just supposed to know. And as you go around the roundabout, you hope that the “eenie” or “meenie” or “mynie” or “moe” was the right choice. But then again, you might not be able to get there from here. Or in Sydney, you’ll more than likely need to make a U-turn. Crazy!

    Just thought I’d add my 2 cents. Hope all is going well!

  2. #2 Rob
    on May 15th, 2009 at 6:34 am

    @Suzanne – Bonjour! Good to hear from you from the Land Down Under! You describe some interesting local signage (or lack thereof) that must be amusing and not so amusing also. It was interesting to note that Australia also has roundabouts. In France the equivalent “rond point” adds some delightful adventure to driving. When first invented, I believe it was those entering who had the right of way over those already trapped er… driving in the rond point. It caused so many problems that it was reversed, except where signs indicate otherwise. (If someone with a knowledge of driving history in France could clarify anything I’ve misstated, please do so.) And so the rond point can be a great thing, but it definitely adds some excitement to the mix.

    Drive safely on the other side of the road on the other side of the world! Greetings to James!

  3. #3 Jenni
    on May 15th, 2009 at 7:29 am

    As we were driving down the highway in Japan, I saw a “Gorilla Crossing” sign! Sadly, I didn’t have my camera handy to get a picture of it!

    When I lived on Guam, a lot of navigation was done by landmarks. There are street signs, but so many are missing! (Blown away in typhoons & never replaced?)

    Jenni’s last blog post..Use Google Maps to send locations to your GPS!

  4. #4 Donna
    on May 15th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    In England, my biggest frustration was that the highway signs would not say East/West/North/South–they would just say, “Highway 12 to Bristol.” If we were headed to a little town somewhere along the way, I was frantically looking at the map to see if it were in the direction of Bristol or the other way. I kept telling my husband to drive around the roundabout again while I tried to figure out which branch off of it to take!

  5. #5 David McGuire
    on May 15th, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Just couldn’t resist commenting on Donna’s comment about driving to Bristol. When you drive from England into Wales, you cross the River Wye. This of course led to a comment from the wise guy in the back of the coach, who sarcastically said, “Oh, there’s another bridge over the River Wye.” [Insert reference to a 1957 WWII film]. And once you get into Wales, many of the signs are in English and Welsh. How the Welsh are able to read the Welsh language, I’ll never figure. It’s like driving in a foreign country!

    David McGuire’s last blog post..Transition

  6. #6 Rob
    on May 16th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    @Jenni – Wow! Gorilla crossing?! I think I might like navigation in Guam. I love it when instructions include landmarks since signage is often difficult to find or to read fast enough to act. When I know turn right on Such-and-such Street, right after you pass the big stone church, that is helpful! I passed your most recent blog post “Use Google Maps to send locations to your GPS!” on to someone I know who is grappling with navigational problems.

    @Donna – As I recall, it’s kind of the same way in France (maybe all over Europe?). You have to know the name of big cities beyond where you’re going to know which road to take. This is especially unhelpful when you’ve gone around a roundabout several times and can no longer remember which way is N-S-E-W.

    @David – The final sentence in your comment is similar to what I often say to my French students after clarifying something – French is almost like a foreign language. 😀

  7. #7 Michael
    on May 16th, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Hi Mr Loach,

    I enjoyed you latest road sign photos!

    With the Daily Telegraph making all the daily headlines in the UK these days, I recently came across the following treasure chest of funny road signs, which you might enjoy! There are so many of them that I have not had a chance to see them all yet, but those I did see were pretty funny too!



  8. #8 David McGuire
    on May 16th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I sampled the Daily Telegraph website that Michael suggested, and there some hilarious road sign bloopers that might appear in some future installment of the “ivman blague.”

    And you did hear about the farmer who asked the county highway department to remove the “Deer Crossing” sign adjacent to one of his fields. He had grown weary of the deer eating his crops, so he requested that the sign be moved down the road to someone else’s property. Of course, the farmer assumed that the deer could read English.

    David McGuire’s last blog post..Transition

  9. #9 Rob
    on May 16th, 2009 at 10:03 am

    @Michael – Good to hear from you! Thank you for the link to the series of funny signs on the Telegraph. I hope to include some of them in future “sign posts.” They don’t seem to be copyrighted, being contributed by readers.

    @David – I checked it out myself, David, before approving the comment. There are some great ones there. What’s interesting is that, for most of the signs, when you click on the image to view the original posting with a larger image, the link leads to a different image from the the image in the thumbnail. Hmm. You’re right, though, I snagged several for future funny sign posts. 😀

  10. #10 Martin Samuel
    on Jul 8th, 2009 at 12:17 pm


    There used to be a sign on the perimeter of the, then unfenced, Antigua airport that read, ‘Animals on airport property will be shot’.
    If the Antiguan animals are clever enough to read, they probably know better than to wander onto the runway.

    My personal favourite sign in the U.S.A. is, Slow Children Playing: http://www.usa-traffic-signs.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=children

    What, no sign for Smart Children?


  11. #11 Rob
    on Jul 9th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    @Martin – That’s funny about the Antiguan animals. Ours in the US are much less literate. Thanks for the link too. I’ve often thought the same thing when seeing a Slow Children sign. 🙂

  12. #12 Leah
    on Oct 11th, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Oh, hahahaha!!! SUCH a good laugh over these!

    My favorites would have to be “Caution: Pedestrians Slippery When Wet” (took me awhile to figure out what was funny, then I laughed my head off) and “Speed Limit: 45… Good Luck.”

    You’ve got a great site here! I’m surprised at how I never saw it before.