Photo of a metric road sign.
Arizona's interstate 19 has metric road signs, but that may soon change. CC by TheTruthAbout.../Flickr

Many Americans tread cautiously around the metric system. The lack of fractions and use of decimals confuses many. It can come off as a foreign language. No success has been realized in converting Americans to the metric system. Interstate 19 in Arizona is the sole highway in America to use the metric system exclusively. It isn’t incredibly large, though. It only stretches from Tuscon down to the Mexican border. However, the signs are due to be converted back to customary units.

Arizona Interstate 19

There are no signs that say “miles” on Interstate 19, only kilometers. From Tuscon to Nogales, a person had better get out a calculator, because it’s in metric. The formula for exit numbers are bit different as well. Exit sign numbers are actually based on distance. According to the New York Times, some people are getting confused by the signs, and the state government is looking at replacing the signs, which would cost more than $1 million. This could potentially confuse motorists even further and cause some longstanding businesses and tourist locations along the way to suffer. Also, motorists heading north from Mexico will also be confused, as Mexico uses the metric system.

The changed signs will cause some to kilo over

Among the many cultural traits America got from the English was our measurement system. The American system and former British system aren’t entirely identical, of course. There were changes made. Most of our measurements though, such as pints and miles, feet and inches, are from the English system. We aren’t alone, though. According to Wikipedia, there are two other countries that don’t use the metric system. Those other two holdouts would be Burma and Liberia. However, there have been several attempts to see about converting the U.S. to the metric system. The last one was a pilot study begun by the Ford administration.

Extremely unlikely

The signs on Interstate 19 will probably get modified in some way at some point, and it is not likely the United States will adopt the metric system any time soon. That said, metric measurement is still the language of science, so students will have to keep learning it.


NY Times:


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