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What Does the Yield Sign Mean in Driving? | Safe Driving 101

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 To stop or not to stop is the big question. All you need to solve the dilemma is spare some time to understand what the ‘YIELD’ sign means. And, no, it isn’t the same as the ‘STOP’ sign. Find out what to do when you see a YIELD sign ahead the next time you are behind the wheel.  

“To Yield” means to concede or give up something (like an advantage). ‘YIELD’ in driving has a similar meaning – to give right-of-way to another vehicle or pedestrians. You can use your better judgment to slow down or stop your car when required. The goal is to ensure everyone passes through safely.  

In the USA, the YIELD sign was first used in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was designed by a police officer called Clinton Riggs. However, he is only credited for designing the sign in 1952 – the traffic rule was already being used.  

Original version of the Yield Sign in the United States with the "keystone" shape as it first appeared in 1952.
Source: Fry1989 eh?, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The original sign designed by Riggs has a keystone shape, and it went through several changes before we got the inverted triangle shape in 1971. The triangular sign was also adopted as an international standard for YIELD signs by the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.  

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What is YIELD in driving? 

YIELD is a regulatory traffic sign for drivers to exercise caution before proceeding. When you see a YIELD sign ahead, check for cars coming from the opposite direction or other streets at an intersection and slow down to ensure safety. If required, stop at to let the other vehicle pass. You must also look out for pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles in the vicinity and follow the same rule of giving right-of-way.  

In some cases, a YIELD line is painted on pavements; the traffic rule is the same as the YIELD signs posted on street sides. Make sure it is safe to proceed down the street as you approach the sign or line. In many countries, GIVE WAY signs are used in place of YIELD, and they mean the same. It is a simpler traffic instruction that an average driver can easily understand.  

Why is the YIELD sign used for traffic regulation? 

The basic purpose of a YIELD sign is to avoid confusion regarding who should pass first at an intersection or other areas where vehicular or pedestrian traffic is high. Unfortunately, the sign itself becomes a point of confusion for many drivers. Often, those who understand the rule and slow down/stop at YIELD signs face criticism from other drivers pulling up behind their cars.  

Following the YIELD rule is vital to safe driving – defensive driving is better for all. Allowing other vehicles to proceed first during lane changes or at the intersection often works out in everyone’s favor. And, you are not saving time by driving aggressively without regard for traffic rules. YIELD signs prevent accidents and congestion in high-traffic areas due to unsafe driving practices.  

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What does the YIELD sign look like? 

The international standard for a YIELD sign is an inverted equilateral triangle with a yellow or white background and a red border.  

In the USA, the YIELD sign is an inverted triangle with a white background and a thick red border. Sometimes the word YIELD is placed inside the downward-pointing triangle on the white background.   

yeild sign used in USA traffic regulation

Where are the YIELD signs placed? 

You’ll find YIELD signs when approaching intersections where two or more streets merge. When multiple vehicles pass through an intersection, the YIELD rule helps avoid traffic congestion and accidents caused by everyone trying to cross the street simultaneously.  

YIELD signs are also posted near merging lanes on highways. It helps drivers safely merge into express lanes. Look out for YIELD lines or signs posted near schools and other areas with high pedestrian traffic. In school areas, YIELD is placed to remind drivers to slow down as children may walk out onto the street or attempt to cross it.  

Do YIELD and STOP mean the same? 

At a red octagonal STOP sign, you must come to a complete stop even if there are no other vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, or schools nearby. It is similar to a red traffic light – stop your car until it is safe to pass.  

On the other hand, you do not need to stop at a YIELD sign at all times. You may slow down and proceed if it is safe to do so. Likewise, you can stop at a YIELD sign if you think it is safer. For example, stop and allow safe passage for those on foot near schools or areas with pedestrian crossings.  

So, the basic difference between a STOP sign and a YIELD sign is: 

At a STOP sign – you must stop and make sure it is safe to proceed.
At a YIELD sign – slow down and proceed if it is safe. But is advised to stop if necessary. 

What to do when you see a YIELD sign? 

Slow down and stop if necessary. Be aware of other vehicles behind you or approaching from opposite directions. Look for pedestrians – especially children – nearby and proceed with caution to avoid accidents. You may also stop to let another vehicle pass first but do so with enough time to warn vehicles behind your car.   

  • On a multi-lane roadway, if the vehicle on another lane has the right-of-way, slow down and let them pass before you proceed.  
  • At an intersection, slow down and proceed carefully if there are no other vehicles or pedestrians. You needn’t stop. 
  • If you spot other vehicles approaching the intersection, the general rule is to allow the one who arrives at the intersection to pass first. So, if you reach the intersection first, slowly proceed through it or stop and wait till the other vehicle(s) have passed.  
  • You can stop at a YIELD sign if you think it is safer for others to proceed before you do. However, this may upset drivers behind you. But that’s okay – safety first! 

Find Out More About Traffic Signs and Their Meanings Here!

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