Before stepping off a curb (kõnni/tee ääre/kivi) in the Kalamaja district of Tallinn. Peatu (stop), vaata (look), veendu (make sure). Photo: Riina Kindlam
This is reminiscent of warnings seen painted on the ground in London, England (with left-hand traffic, vasak-/poolne liiklus) reading: “Look right!”
Such a warning (hoiatus) is intended for pedestrians (jala/käijad) from countries with right-hand traffic (parem/poolne liiklus), which is more prevalent globally and where pedestrians are used to traffic approaching from the left.
Other warnings painted on roadways in Estonia can designate a bike route (jalg/ratta/tee), pathway for pedestrians (jala/käijate tee), bus lane (bussi/rida) or bike lane (jalgratta/rida).
In traffic, a LANE is a RIDA. If you switch lanes in traffic, sa vahetad sõidu/rida. An intersection is a ristmik, where the roads intersect or cross (teed ristuvad); form a cross (rist). A traffic light is a valgus/foor, or just foor for short. Ta jäi foori taha peatuma. S/he stopped at the traffic light. I’m not sure where the word foor comes from, since there are no F words in the Estonian etymological (word source) dictionary! Since it begins with an F, it is no doubt a foreign loan word.
A pedestrian crossing is an üle/käigu/rada, which in Estonia is marked by a succession of white stripes of the pavement (asfaldil) resulting in the nickname sebra (zebra). “Lähme ikka sebrast üle” = Let’s cross on the zebra (instead of jaywalking). There’s no specific expression for jaywalking in Estonian. If you jaywalk, sa ületad sõidu/teed vales kohas, you are crossing the roadway in the wrong place.
Veendu / veenduma might also be a new word. Veenduma is to be sure or convinced of something. Oled sa veendunud, et see on õige otsus? Are you sure that’s the right decision? Ma ei suutnud teda VEENDA, et ta haigena tööle ei läheks. I wasn’t able to convince him/her, to not go to work when sick.
The traffic word of the day in Eesti is undoubtedly HELKUR or reflector. Kindergartens and elementary schools do regular coat checks to make sure all kids are wearing them. They should hang on the right side just above the knee, (since you should walk on the left side of the road, facing oncoming traffic), in which case cars’ headlights will shine straight on them. Wearing more than one is always a good idea; and easy, since attractive helkur pins and arm bands are sold everywhere.