Why America's traffic signs look so much different from the rest of the world

American exceptionalism had a lot to do with it.

traffic signs, united nations, automobiles

Why are traffic signs so differnt in the U.S.?

Have you ever watched a James Bond movie and noticed that as he races his Astin Martin through the hills of an exotic European locale, the street signs look a lot different than those in America? Did you also notice that they don’t have many words, mostly shapes and pictures?

It isn’t by accident. Many years ago, there was a movement to get America on board with the rest of the world so all of our street signs would be the same, but it never happened. For better or worse, America, once again, exercised its independent spirit and stuck with its signs.

The whole story was recently told on YouTube by Half as Interesting. This channel prides itself on being an “Education-y explainer videos that are almost good enough to watch.”

The chasm between the U.S. and the rest of the world regarding traffic signs started in the early 1900s when Henry Ford began mass-producing automobiles and America quickly became the car capital of the world.

This also made the U.S. the road capital of the world.

Why US Signs Look Different Than The Rest Of The World’s

The signage across the U.S. in the early days of the automobile was inconsistent, which would cause problems as people drove from region to region and couldn’t make sense of the signage. So, in 1931, a committee of traffic sign organizations created a joint committee that ultimately came up with the 1931 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

This Bible of signage gave us the stop sign we all know and love, along with the iconic “One Way” and “Railroad Crossing” signs that are still used today.

As the rest of the world caught up to the U.S., the United Nations attempted to get the world on the same page regarding traffic signs, but the U.S. wouldn’t go along. “It turned out that Americans, still riding the intoxicating high of World War II propaganda and American exceptionalism, did not look kindly on European triangles telling them how to drive,” the video says.

In 1968, the Vienna Convention on Road Signs & Signals created a universal road sign system joined by 69 countries, and today, it governs the road signs seen in most of the world. The United States refused to sign the agreement. Why? Half as Interesting cites 3 big reasons.

“Technically, legally, roads are under the purview of the states, not the federal government and so the federal government signing a treaty telling them how to handle their roads is a bit legally murky, the video says.

“Second, at the time of the treaty, the US was working on the Interstate highway system, which they felt would require a lot of breathless, fast-paced innovation in the rough and tumble world of roadside signage and they didn't want to be bogged down by the strictures of a treaty,” the video continues. “Third, given that the US had the most robust driving history in the world, Americans were pretty much their existing signs and they didn't much want them to change.”

If the UN figured out how to tell the British to drive on the other side of the road, Americans could get a rental car in London.


Tony Trapani discovers a letter his wife hid from him since 1959.

Tony Trapani and his wife were married for 50 years despite the heartache of being unable to have children. "She wanted children,” Trapani told Fox 17. "She couldn't have any. She tried and tried." Even though they endured the pain of infertility, Tony's love for his wife never wavered and he cherished every moment they spent together.

After his wife passed away when Tony was 81 years old, he undertook the heartbreaking task of sorting out all of her belongings. That’s when he stumbled upon a carefully concealed letter in a filing cabinet hidden for over half a century.

The letter was addressed to Tony and dated March 1959, but this was the first time he had seen it. His wife must have opened it, read it and hid it from him. The letter came from Shirley Childress, a woman Tony had once been close with before his marriage. She reached out, reminiscing about their past and revealing a secret that would change Tony's world forever.

Keep ReadingShow less
Courtesy of Molly Simonson Lee

Flight attendant sits on floor to comfort passenger

Not everyone enjoys flying. The level of non-enjoyment can range from mild discomfort to full blown Aerophobia, which is defined as an extreme fear of flying. While flying is the quickest way to get to far away destinations, for some people being that far off the ground is terrifying and they'd rather take their chances on the ground.

A passenger flying from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina to JFK International Airport in New York confronted that fear while flying with Delta. The woman, who is currently still unidentified expressed that she was nervous to fly according to Molly Simonson Lee, a passenger seated behind the woman who witnessed the encounter. Tight spaces don't make for much privacy, but in this case, the world is better for knowing this took place.

Keep ReadingShow less
Image from Pixabay.

Under the sea...

The Wilderness Society

You're probably familiar with the literary classic "Moby-Dick."

But in case you're not, here's the gist: Moby Dick is the name of a huge albino sperm whale.

(Get your mind outta the gutter.)

Keep ReadingShow less

Gen Xer shares some timeless advice for Gen Z.

Meghan Smith is the owner of Melody Note Vintage store in the eternally hip town of Palm Springs, California, and her old-school Gen X advice has really connected with younger people on TikTok.

In a video posted in December 2022, she shares the advice she wishes that “somebody told me in my twenties” and it has received more than 13 million views. Smith says that she gave the same advice to her partner's two daughters when they reached their twenties.

The video is hashtagged #GenX advice for #GenZ and late #millennials. Sorry older millennials, you’re too old to receive these pearls of wisdom.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

Can flying to college twice a week really be cheaper than renting?

Some students choose to live at home while they go to college to save money on living expenses, but that's generally only an option for families who live in college towns or cities with large universities where a student can easily commute.

For University of British Columbia student Tim Chen, that "easy commute" is more than 400 miles each way.

Twice a week, Chen hops on a flight from his home city of Calgary, flies a little more than an hour to Vancouver to attend his classes, then flies back home the same night. And though it's hard to believe, this routine actually saves him approximately $1,000 a month.

Keep ReadingShow less

Man goes out of his way to leave tip for a server after realizing he grabbed the wrong receipt

Instead of just brushing it off and moving on, the man wrote out a note explaining what happened with a sincere apology along with a $20 cash tip and delivered it to the restaurant.

Man goes out of his way to leave forgotten tip for server

Being in the service industry can be hard. People have to spend long hours on their feet, deal with repetitive movements that can create pain and sometimes interact with not so nice customers. When you rely on tips for survival on top of everything else, it can feel like a bit of a gut punch when someone decides not to leave you one despite how good your service was.

One customer must've realized the disappointment that can occur after not receiving a tip when serving tables because he went out of his way to give one. In a post shared on Reddit, a customer revealed in a letter that he realized he took the wrong receipt after leaving. Instead of taking the blank one, he took the merchant's copy which holds the tip amount and his signature.

The error was discovered when he was checking his bank account and saw the amount taken off of his card was not the amount he expected. That's when he decided to check the receipt from that day and saw the error.

Keep ReadingShow less