It really couldn't be any clearer.
In fiction, road signs mean exactly what they say
When you told me your grand plan for saving Gotham, the only thing that stopped me from calling the men in white coats was when you said that it wasn't about thrill-seeking. Bruce Wayne:
It's not. Alfred Pennyworth:
What would you call that
? [points to a breaking news report showing a helicopter shot of the Batmobile being chased down the freeway by police cars] Bruce Wayne: [as he fixes his tie] Damn good television. Alfred Pennyworth:
It's a miracle no one was killed. Bruce Wayne:
Didn't have time to observe the rules of the road, Alfred.
: If the speed limit sign says 250, you had better be doing 250. If a yellow caution sign warns of an impenetrable snarl of an intersection, a 360-degree vertical loop, or a moose, guess what you're about to see?
Further, any law-enforcement along the road will measure your performance according to the road signs (no matter how ludicrous, and even if they've been recently vandalized) and praise or punish you accordingly.
Often a version of a Visual Pun
. See also Can't You Read the Sign?
In a rare aversion people who are either Genre Savvy
or extremely horror-movie tier violent will disregard or kill the Too Dumb to Live
people who are enforcing idiotically vandalised signs. Often leads to jokes regarding the "Slow Children Playing" sign.
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- Pee-wee's Big Adventure has a series of signs of upcoming curves, each increasingly twisty and ridiculous. Followed by falling rocks.
- One of the Cannonball Run films showed a racer sticking numbers to a speed limit sign, changing it from 55 mph to 155 mph
- They were driving a Lamborghini. So yeah...
- The Muppet Movie has a map that says that there's a fork in the road. Sure, the road branches into two, but there's also a GIANT fork in the road! (which is apparently a real landmark)
Kermit: Hey Fozzie, I want you to turn left if you come to a fork in the road.
Fozzie: Yessir, turn left at the fork in the road... Kermit!
[They literally turn at a giant fork in the road]
Kermit: I don't believe it.
- National Lampoon's When Nature Calls has, in succession, "Bear Left" (with a bear on the sign's left), "Bear Right" (same thing but reversed), and "Bare Breasts" (Exactly What It Says on the Tin).
- Invoked in the short story "Absolute Limits", in which frustrated government scientists note that everyone on the highway always breaks the speed limit—so they have the speed limit on that stretch set to the speed of light.
Live Action Television
- Red Dwarf has some fun with these. Rimmer quizzes Kryten on these while trying to get him certified for piloting a shuttle. Keep in mind this is taking place a few months shy of three million years away from Earth..
- The 'Tank Crossing' sign below was shown once in an episode of Home Improvement. For some reason, it was on the tank's road and not the cart path it crossed.
- In the video for the Gorillaz song "19/2000", the band comes upon a sign in the road depicting an irate moose. You shouldn't be surprised when the camera pans up to show a moose, but you might be surprised that it's hundreds of feet tall.
- Also, they pass a sign that reads "Loop Exit" just before entering a 360-degree loop in the road.
- The cover of a paperback collection of B.C. strips famously featured a "Dip in Road" sign◊. Sure enough...
- One The Far Side cartoon had a woman looking at a road sign and warning her driver about "cattle dancing." This activity is depicted on the sign and apparent on the road directly in front of the car.
- In Gokujou Parodius (Ultimate Parodius), the highway-esque stage features plenty of yellow caution signs, mostly to indicate how the enemies are going to move. At one point, there is a caution sign for falling rocks, followed by falling rocks. Then there is a caution sign for moose, followed by falling moose. Then there is a caution sign with an exclamation point, followed by falling exclamation points...
- Subverted in the Sam & Max episodes. They remark the "One way" sign outside their office is the "least obeyed street sign in the country".
- The next-to-final dungeon in Persona 4 has "Shadow Crossing" signs strewn all over it, and you had better believe there are a ton of them.
- The second level of Air Buster plays this straight with signs warning the players of bends, narrows and splits in the high-speed tunnels.
- In the obligatory Wacky Races-styled episode of The Wuzzles, one of Crock's myriad (backfiring) attempts to cheat involves doctoring an ordinary "Speed Limit 55 MPH" sign to read "Speed Limit 155 MPH". Rhinokey sees the sign and dutifully obeys it, but when Crock and his goons try to follow, traffic cop Eagle Beagle gives them a ticket for driving too slow.
- Special note: this would fall under Genre Blind, too. The scheme was to get Rhinokey arrested for speeding.
- Spongebob Squarepants once featured a characteristically bizarre version in which the signs announced "killer clams", "cheese graters" and, horror of horrors, "EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION".
- In Wacky Races, many of the times Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, it involves him flipping a directional sign so the arrow points in the other direction. Or he yanks a real road sign out of the ground so the others will miss the turn, or changes a 35 mph speed limit sign to read 85 mph. This one is oft imitated in other cartoons where there's Wacky Racing.
- In the opening credits of IAM Weasel, Weasel's driving a convertible with a hot blonde. But he passes a road sign that reads "LOGO". He leaps out of the car in the direction the sign indicates, and jumps into the logo for the show.
- This was a favorite gag of Tex Avery. If a character passed a "Fork ahead" sign, he would then bump into a giant fork sticking out of the ground. A "Hairpin turn" sign would indicate that the road would look exactly like a hairpin. And when characters stop at a school crossing, what should cross the road but a schoolhouse on two legs.
- Wile E. Coyote would frequently attempt to utilize these in his pursuit of the Road Runner. Unfortunately for him, Road Runners can't read.
- One of the Freaky Stories shorts involves an incredibly picky police officer, who expects everyone to follow traffic laws EXACTLY. Naturally, once he acquires a Speed Gun, he begins pulling people over for even going 1 Km/h faster/slower than the posted speed limit.
- Rocko's Modern Life did this with "Cheese Crossing" and "Slow Children Playing" signs.
- Dennis the Menace (UK): Dennis and his gang attempt to drive a line-marking machine which goes haywire and leaves white lines everywhere on the road. Cars naturally attempt to follow the line and end up driving on the footpath, through the park, etc.
- Dead Man's Curve, on I-90 in Cleveland, Ohio. Several large signs showing a sharp 90-degree-turn arrow, and signs all but screaming for you to slow down to 35...leading up to one of the sharpest curves on an Interstate highway.
- Signs that warn of speed bumps often simply read BUMP, or sometimes HUMP AHEAD.
- Travel tip- when the State of Vermont puts a sign up saying FROST HEAVE, the frost heave will be much larger than average.
- In Mexico, the signs read "TOPE" and may have a picture of the device. They tend to be very large and very steep, often enough to damage a car going much faster than 20 MPH. Residents of rural areas may build their own by felling trees.
- Speedtrap signs featuring a camera with a radar wave that says "SPEEDTRAP". Saw that flash in the night while driving? It means you'll be served a speed ticket next week.
- And signs which read "Do not back up. SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE". They are not kidding.
- Speed limits in general - it is considered good etiquette to drive as close to the speed limit as conditions allow.
- Seen near British Army training grounds: tank crossings◊.
- Similarly, the magic roundabout◊. No, that is not a Photoshop, they're called ring junctions and the Highways Agency built about six of them before it became obvious that they were a terrible, terrible idea.
- Approaching Denver from the west on I-70 are several signs warning about the steep grades and sharp curves. They all have huge letters and start with "DON'T BE FOOLED" and "TRUCKERS, YOU ARE NOT DOWN YET."
- In Norway they have troll crossings◊.
- In Duarte, California there is a nun crossing sign◊.
- Inverted (presumably) in certain signs warning of sharp curves that may cause a truck to overturn. For some reason, the arrow on these signs always appears to indicate that trucks may spontaneously right themselves.
- "Alligator Alley" (State Road 84 in Florida) has several signs warning drivers to WATCH FOR ALLIGATORS. and brother, you'd better damned well be watching for alligators. The road is four lanes with little to no shoulder that cross through the middle of the Everglades, and alligators can regularly be found sunning themselves in the middle of the road.
- Back in the 1980s, the State Highway department office in San Antonio, Texas, posted exact-figure speed limit signs on several freeway exits about town. Instead of being rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 mph, they'd say "18" or "17" or what have you. The phenomenon attracted a lot of attention statewide, as well as a few national outlets. Sadly, whoever it was that posted the signs was replaced with a multiple-of-5 guy and the exact signs were taken down years ago