Of unscripted signals

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Unwritten road signals are part of  our everyday  road communication.

Unwritten road signals are part of our everyday road communication. This sign could mean trouble ahead or it could be a warning about traffic police ahead. PHOTOS BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

Posted  Thursday, June 26   2014 at  01:00

We face challenges every day and we often come up with measures to counter them. On the road, drivers use different signals to communicate. Some are official while others are merely created and they sometimes confuse people.

Jude: When I was leaving the parking lot, I could see a boda boda rider in my side mirror. But maybe he thought I wasn’t seeing him and that I was going to knock him and his passenger -so he whistled! At the back of my mind I was asking myself that in the event that I hadn’t seen him, would that whistle signal work? On the road we have so many signals, but how practical are they?

Mustafa: I think the question is what did you expect from the boda man, what did you want him to do?

Jude: He should have hooted.

Paul: I think his mechanism of alerting you was effective. Wasn’t it?

Jude: I had already seen him. That is why I am asking in case I hadn’t seen him, would this whistling have worked?

Mustafa: Perhaps he whistled because you had seen him!

Paul: Jude, your car and Mustafa’s have proximity sensors to alert you about oncoming bodas (jokes). Anyway on a serious note, you raise a point here. What are the effective rules of communicating on the road?

Mustafa: My father taught me how to drive. He warned me against honking at people. You can wait for them to pass or listen to the sound of the engine and only honk if you really have to. Eeh, is honking American English? Okay, hooting. There are people who just hoot all the time. Anything as small as a cat crossing the road, they just hoot.

Jude: When they are impatient and thinking of you as holding up traffic, they will hoot. It is even noisy.

Mustafa: Then many times, when taxi drivers are behind you they may not hoot but will flash their lights at you. I don’t know if you have noticed this. Personally, I think the way someone communicates while on the road is purely circumstantial. If you want to reach a certain junction before someone else you want them to slow down. So you flash your lights for them to slow down. Another incident may be, I am flashing you to pass so that I can pass next. The boda man who whistled at you, may be the circumstance forced him to.

Jude: But how many road users know how to interprete these signs? Some in wanting to give you space to join the road, they flash their lights twice. Others do it but kind of like warning you.

Paul: What does the traffic manual say about giving the hand or any kind of signals? There is also acquired culture or road behaviour. If you drive on the highway in Uganda, you are forced to learn. When someone from the oncoming traffic flashes their indicator on the highway it is a sign for you not to knock them. In other words suggesting, this is how far you should go. I used to wonder what it meant and I was told in Uganda it means, I am approaching you, so keep your distance.

Mustafa: But still on the highway, it could mean do not overtake at this particular point.

Jude: Who comes up with all these rules?

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