I have concluded that most American drivers have no clue what “Yield” means.
For some, all they know is that it’s NOT a Stop sign. It also doesn’t say “Slow” or “Caution” so for these people, it’s essentially an “Ignore This Sign” sign.
For the Yield maneuver to work effectively, the driver has to understand the higher concept of “merging”. For many, this involves deeper thought processes which, my observations conclude, are clearly beyond the capacity of a significant number of drivers.
Merging involves observation of converging traffic, calculating their velocity and attenuating yours, to allow for the safe insertion of your vehicle into the adjacent traffic pattern without having vehicles come into contact with one another… uh, well I was told there would be no math.
The capacity to successfully merge is further complicated by the overriding personality of the vehicle operator. For example, some driver’s mental capabilities are maxed in just operating their own vehicle. There’s the steering wheel to deal with, then all those peddle thingies for your feet, knobs, switches and incoming text messages. For these individuals, their sphere of consciousness does not extend much beyond the shell of the car itself. These folks are more likely to approach a yield situation by closing their eyes, stepping on the gas and hoping for a positive outcome.
Still others (men mostly) view the automobile as an extension of their physical being – their penis, actually. These guys view the yield as an invitation to insert their dominance in a social environment; charging ahead through the yield as if to say: “Yield to me, suckers” and challenging others to see who brakes first.
In an ideal world the Yield sign instead would read: “If there is no other traffic, proceed – otherwise slow down, look for other traffic and allow it to pass first; come to a complete stop if necessary”. Unfortunately a sign of this clarity would need to be the size of a billboard.
A few years back when we rented a car and driving around France, I saw this sign pictured here. I had no clue what it meant. So I just drove very very slowly.