Traffic signs in India and their evolution to an important aspect to safety

Traffic signs in India

 According to a survey, 17 Indians die every hour in road accidents. There are about 53 road crashes every hour, and this raises a serious question on safety while driving roads. Though 2020 has seen a steep  26.48 percent reduction in road accidents and a 22 percent drop in deaths against the stats in 2019, and ironically coronavirus had a big hand. But as Indians are getting back to their prompt life, do we need to worry about our safety?

Well, yes, and in contrast to various answers to our Universe and big bang theory, this one is pretty simple and is right in front of our nose. Road safety rules and traffic signs are the mandatory rules, laid down by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for the safety of every commuter. While the majority of drivers are known for different traffic and safety rules, traffic signs are often neglected. 



What are traffic signs?

Traffic signs are silent conductors of certain safety norms. As the term ‘sign’ signifies language using visual images, these aids in communicating without words or sounds. But to follow these safety norms, one must be familiar with all the types of traffic signs/symbols for Indian roads, know their meaning, and other important aspects of safety. So, if you are new to traffic signs and their meaning, this article will aid and abet you to all of them.


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What is the interpretation of shapes and colors of traffic signs in India?

Right before jumping into the types and categories of road signs, some prerequisites can help the drivers remember the signs and their meaning in a systematic and organized manner. If you’d have noticed, the various traffic signs that we observe daily, are represented in different shapes and colors. 

The two major factors that play a vital role while communicating these road signs, as mentioned before, are shape and colors. The Indian road signs are often symbolized in four different shapes and colors, and a brief analysis is as follows:


Sign Shapes

  • The Round shape is the most prominent one and usually signifies regulatory signs. These signs are often obliged with a penalty in case of violation so one needs to pay attention and follow accordingly.
  • The Triangle shape is mostly used for cautionary signs, Whenever you see a triangle road sign, pay close attention. There’s an exception to the triangle shape cautionary sign proposition, and it is the “upside-down” triangle sign that symbolizes the “Give way” sign and is categorized as a regulatory sign.
  • The Octagon shape is exclusively used for the stop sign. 
  • The Rectangular shape signs symbolize informational signs, and informs the driver about the destination and navigate them.

Sign Colors:

  • Red: It is associated with danger and in the road signs it also complies with compulsory rules and possible dangers. The red color road signs relate to regulatory or cautionary signs, thus one must never skip a red traffic sign
  • Yellow: It is one of the colors of the traffic light, and has a similar explication in road signs. The yellow traffic lights are seen less than red or green. In most cases, it suggests the driver slow down the vehicle and be cautious.
  • Green: It is often related to informatory traffic signs, which give direction or guides the traffic to a particular destination. 
  • Blue: It is accompanied by a rectangular shape and is used to indicate a destination ahead. The combination of blue color and round shape is used for regulatory signs, while in most cases, these signs require you to take a turn.


Types of Traffic signs/symbols for Indian roads

There are numerous different traffic signs and symbols for Indian roads, but these have been divided into three different categories. These are:


Mandatory/Regulatory signs: As the name hints, these signs are mandatory and also the ones that regulate and ensure the smooth flow of traffic and avoid accidents. These traffic signs make sure that the drivers follow the instructions on them and violations of these traffic signs are punishable as per the Roadways and Traffic department. For easy identification, the majority of these signs feature red borders with a black symbol inside, along with a white background. Some are depicted in a blue background, with white symbols within.


Cautionary signs: The Roadways and Traffic Department have added a total of 40 cautionary traffic signs. These oblige to warn the driver of any potential hazard on the road ahead so that the driver can pay more attention and prepare for the situation. These are often the ones depicted with a red triangle border and a small black symbol within it. These signs give prior warning to the road users about potential dangers like turn and curve warnings, lane transition warnings, pedestrian cross warnings, and more. Though violations of these traffic signs are not subjected to any regulation or penalty, these crucial signs majorities concern the safety of both drivers and the people around the vehicle’s surroundings.



Informatory signs: While the above two signs are the most important and the most prevalent ones, the informatory signs have their significance. And that is, to inform the drivers and road users about destinations, distance, fuel stations, and other locations. These are often depicted with square borders and blue backgrounds with white symbols within them. These often benefit the road users and drivers, while some inform the drivers about schools, colleges, workplaces, clubs, public places, and restaurants, to inform and warn the driver. 




    These three types of road signs should be memorized by heart and should be prioritized and followed to avoid road accidents. But these aren’t the only traffic signs or crucial facts. Further, we will discuss some more traffic signs that perturb towards kids/students and also the significance of traffic signs in daily life.

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    Traffic Signs For Kids/Students

    Just as the safety norms apply to adults, there are various traffic signs that concern kids, to safeguard them and educate them about traffic rules and safety. Here are some traffic signs for kids/students in India:


    • STOP sign: The most easily recognizable traffic sign is the ‘Stop’ sign and every child, as well as an adult, knows the symbolization of this sign, which is to halt.
    • School crossing sign: This sign is planted on places where children cross the streets/roads outside the school. This sign alerts the driver to pay attention to the roads, and also slow down to avoid any accident.
    • Slow-children at play sign: As the sign says itself, this sign implies that the driver should be alerted and slow down the vehicles, as there might be children from the nearby play-zones.
    • Seat belt buckles up sign: This sign reminds the driver and the passengers to buckle up the seatbelts, as, during an accident, seatbelts can save lives. As the children are more at risk than the adults, despite their seats, they should wear seatbelts all the time.




    Functions of traffic signs

    The rules and regulations are laid out for the voyage and welfare of the common. Similarly, the traffic rules and signs regulate the safety and smooth flow of traffic on the crowded roads of India. The road signs are an important aspect of road safety as:

    • These inform the driver about the potential dangers or even blockages
    • These alert the driver about sensitive junctions and curves in the presence of hospitals and schools nearby, thus they can pay more attention and avoid any careless fatality.
    • They ensure proper discipline on the roads
    • They inform the drivers about the destinations, alternative routes, and more informative facts on the road
    • They inform the road users about specific locations like public outlets, restaurants, hospitals, fuel stations, and more.


    Importance of traffic signs in daily life

    The traffic norms are the regulated rules put in black and white, for the safety of the commuters and other people surrounding them. Hence the traffic sign also poses high importance in daily life. Without traffic signs, the roads will be chaos, with people crashing into each other, raging, abusing, and even getting physically violent. In a world without these norms, it would be hard to feel safe while traveling or even crossing the roads.


    Traffic Police Hand Signals – Hand Signals by Policemen



    Besides traffic rules and signs, there is more to rules and regulations on Indian roads. Another aspect of traffic rules is the traffic police hand signals, which are the hand gestures made by the traffic policeman indicating various coded information. These are important to grasp for both the policeman and the Indian drivers and road users, to encrypt them, and follow the rules efficiently. Here are some hand signals by a policeman along with their elucidation.

    Hand Signals by Drivers

    Similar to the hand signals by the traffic policeman, there are certain preset hand signals that the drivers can use. These not only save energy but alert the traffic if the driver is intending to take a turn, slow down or stop.


    Road Marking or Pavement Marking Signs

    When you get down to the roads, you might have observed the various road markings. Some of them are continuous while others are broken lines, but all of these marking signs have a definition. Here is the meaning to the road markings or pavement marking signs on the Indian roads:


    Road Rage in India

    Road rage is the most common threat to safety on Indian roads. Besides the threats of accidents/crashes, road rages also cost hundreds of lives. If you look up in the dictionary, road rage refers to violent incidents caused on the roads and streets, especially by an aggressive driver or motorist. The most common road rages come uninvited in the clumsiest and irritating times, and scenarios like heavy traffic jams or even grid-locks for hours. Most people lose their calms and become aggressive, using swear words or impolite behavior. Also, at times, drunk people can be the reason for road rage. It has been observed that road rage can be the result of various activities like speeding, aggressive driving, consistently honking, rude gestures, and various other reasons. 

    It’s not just India, road rage is life-threatening in many countries like the US, Canada, Australia, England, and Japan. It’s best to avoid these violent incidents by keeping themselves away from any sort of confrontation. Also one should avoid being the reason, and menace behind road rage, by remaining calm.

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