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Lessons New York Road Signs Have to Teach Us

Licensed drivers using New York roadways are expected to know and adhere to the rules of the road, including speed limits, traffic rules and other motor-vehicle safety laws. Breaking a traffic law can bring fines and other penalties, as well as hurt your driving record and potentially your insurance rates.

If, in the act of a traffic violation, you are in an accident with another vehicle, or injure or kill a pedestrian, motorcyclist or bicyclist, evidence that you were violating the law when it happened could be harmful to you if you are sued for the resulting damages.

So where do road signs come into this picture? Some signs are merely informational, for guidance and direction so people know where they are and where they are going. Examples of "guide signs" are those that identify the road name or number, or point drivers in the direction of other roads, towns or places of interest.

A second category of road sign is the "warning sign" that alerts drivers to take special care - including reducing speed - to avoid potentially dangerous situations like road construction, steep inclines, slippery conditions, congestion, hidden obstacles, children or schools, uneven pavement or other road hazards. While disregarding a particular warning sign may not technically violate a particularized law, it might break a more general provision like the duty to drive reasonably for the conditions.

In addition, if you are in a crash when you have disregarded a warning sign, ignoring the warning could be considered negligent behavior when legal blame is assessed in a lawsuit.

A final category of signs is the "regulatory sign," which directs mandatory driving behavior, violation of which breaks traffic laws. Regulatory signs include speed limit postings, and stop or yield signs.

Source: Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Road signs 101," Dave Werner, May 19, 2012

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