One universal code for driving is safety first.
Part of safety means that as a driver, you should have a thorough knowledge of road signs, markings, and traffic signals.
It’s not enough that you know how to get to your destination, it’s also important to have a heads up on what kind of road you’re driving on.
Today, we’re going to talk all about the road signs, markings, and traffic signals in the state of Alabama.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Road Signs in Alabama
In Alabama, road signs are classified into 3 categories:
Each category has its own unique function and can be easily recognized by its designated shapes and colors.
Let’s look at them one by one.
Regulatory signs are usually coded black and white, as well as red.
Regulatory signs instruct drivers on what they can or cannot do in order to regulate the flow of traffic. Below are the regulatory signs that can be seen in Alabama:
While not always the case, stop signs are usually found in 4-way intersections with no stoplights. The rule is: the first car that pulls up on the stop sign is the one that proceeds first. We call this “right of way”.
This situation is usually confusing for new drivers because most don’t remember who goes first. Nevertheless, stop signs must be obeyed—especially in a 4-way intersection—in order to lessen or avoid accidents altogether.
To yield means to allow other motorists to go first. When you encounter a yield sign, you need to slow down in order to give way to vehicles or pedestrians crossing the road.
If you encounter this sign, it means you’re going against the flow of traffic. A wrong way sign is typically accompanied by a DO NOT ENTER sign.
Do Not Enter
A ‘do not enter’ sign is mainly for preventing collisions. It’s usually located beside exit ramps, one-way roads, or crossovers.
Not to be confused with the railroad crossing sign, the 3-track sign simply gives caution to tread with care while crossing tracks.
No Left Turn
A no left turn sign means you’re not allowed to turn left, obviously. It’s typically found in roadways or the far left side of intersections.
This means you’re not allowed to park your vehicle in that certain area.
Unless you’re handicapped or you have a handicapped passenger on board, you’re not allowed to park in the designated area that is reserved for PWDs.
Emergency Stopping Only
An emergency stop sign allows you to park in the area during medical emergencies, mechanical vehicle troubles, or law enforcement disruption.
Left Lane Must Turn Left
Vehicles in the left lane must turn left.
Vehicles are not allowed to either turn right or left. The only way to go is straight ahead.
Do Not Pass
For safety reasons, drivers aren’t allowed to overtake another vehicle throughout the course of the road.
No Turn On Red
Vehicles aren’t allowed to turn right or left while the red light is up. You need to wait for the green light in order to make your turn.
If an obstruction or feature is present on the road, vehicles must keep right when passing through it.
Intersection Lane Control
This sign indicates the flow of an intersection up ahead. If you encounter a sign like this, it means that vehicles in the right lane must turn right and the ones in the adjoining lane can either turn right or straight ahead.
The flow of traffic only goes in one direction. Drivers must follow the indicated direction to avoid collisions and disrupted flow.
Lanes are separated by a physical feature, such as a strip of land.
Bicycles may use full lane, that is, if the lane is narrow enough.
Speed Limit Signs
Though these are still regulatory signs, it’s best to put them in a separate category.
These types of signs inform drivers of maximum and minimum speeds allowed on that certain road. For example, if you see a speed limit sign that says ‘70’, you’re only allowed to drive up to 70kph.
In addition, if you see a speed limit sign that includes a minimum, that means it’s not recommended to go any slower than the indicated speed. This can be for safety purposes as well.
Here are a few speed limit signs:
School zone speed limit
Drivers should also take caution when driving in a school zone within the hours indicated in the sign.
Now, let’s talk about the warning signs.
These are coded black and yellow. Most warning signs, but not all, are usually diamond-shaped.
These signs are placed to alert drivers of hazardous or unexpected conditions up ahead.
Sharp, Curve, or Gradual Turns
An arrow bending to a right-angle degree alerts vehicles that there is a sharp turn ahead. A curved arrow indicates that the road up ahead requires a soft turn. A gradual turn is a semi-winding arrow that informs drivers to take a gradual turn to the right and then to the left or vice versa.
Some signs include a speed limit. You have to follow the speed when making the turn.
Vehicles should slow down as there is a winding road ahead.
Side Road Signs
Warns that a side road is up ahead, entering the highway perpendicularly or at an angle.
Alerts vehicles that a bump is up ahead and it’s best to slow down.
Two Direction Arrow
Vehicles should either only turn right or left. They are not allowed to pass straight through.
Warns drivers of different surfaces on the same road.
The edge of the road where a different surface is typically present is called a road shoulder. This sign alerts drivers when the road shoulder is dipped.
Alerts vehicles of an island or obstruction ahead and informs them that they can pass on either side.
Alerts vehicles that a dip is ahead, meaning a lower surface compared to what they’re currently driving on.
“T” Intersection Sign
This means that 3 roads are going to converge up ahead. This is a warning to drivers that the road is about to end.
One Lane Bridge
If you encounter a one-lane bridge sign, this means you need to slow down and check if other vehicles are coming from the other side. If you have the right of way, you may proceed to cross the bridge.
Stop Sign Ahead
Alerts vehicles that there is a stop sign ahead.
Alerts vehicles that pavement ahead narrows down.
Sharp or Curve Turn
Indicates a tight turn (sharped or curved) and is usually seen in series.
Warns that a railroad crossing is up ahead. Drivers should slow down and check if there is an incoming train before they cross the tracks.
Truck signs and fire signs indicate a highly possible presence of trucks in the vicinity. It can also mean you are near a fire station.
The road up ahead has no existing pavement, so be prepared to drive through gravel and dirt.
The road up ahead ends and has no exit.
Alerts drivers that lane is about to end and they must merge with the continuing lane.
No Passing Zone
Alerts drivers that the zone they are about to enter does not allow overtaking.
Traffic Light Ahead
Expect a traffic light up ahead.
Height Clearance Sign
Indicates the maximum height a structure can allow for vehicles to pass through.
Alerts vehicles that are about to enter a two-way road highway.
Vehicles merging with another lane going in the same direction must yield and adjust to the speed changes to maintain a smooth traffic flow.
Alerts drivers of an intersection ahead.
Indicates a beginning or end of a divided highway.
Alerts vehicles that a steep downhill slope is approaching. Drivers must adjust their speed accordingly.
Slippery When Wet
This indicates that the road is slippery when wet.
This signals that a narrow bridge is ahead and drivers must yield to those with the right of way.
Placed in areas where cattle and/or deer usually cross.
Vehicles must slow down to give way for pedestrians crossing the street. This applies to school zones as well.
School Bus Stop Ahead
A warning sign that there is a school bus stop ahead. Drivers must slow down and proceed with caution.
Alerts vehicles for bicycle crossings. Drivers must stop for bicycles here.
Vehicles must maintain a minimum distance of 3 feet when passing.
Alerts vehicles of nearby construction, flagmen, workers, or mowers.
Flashing Arrow Panel
Warns vehicles that a particular road may be closed and redirects them to an adjacent lane.
A roundabout is where vehicles move counterclockwise around an island. Roundabouts are typically used for controlling the flow of traffic in intersections by slowing all vehicles down in a systematic way.
And finally, there are the informational signs.
As their name suggests, these signs give information or guidance about an area. Green and white-coded signs are for driver directions; blue and white for services; and brown and white-coded signs indicate cultural features or public spaces.
Informs you if a hospital is nearby.
Informs you if gas, food, and lodging establishments are up ahead.
Indicates the county road you are in.
Cultural or Recreational Marker
Recreational or cultural establishments are color-coded in brown and white.
They usually tell the direction of a landmark for guiding drivers on their way.
They indicate the route number of a highway.
Usually seen on highways. They are used as informational markers that tell the location by mile. Mileposts can prove to be extremely useful for emergencies (ex: your car broke down).
Road Markings in Alabama
Road markings are just as important as road signs. They instruct drivers on what to do out on the road.
Below are the different types of road markings in Alabama.
Centerline striping is the white or yellow line you see down the center of the road. They are either solid or broken lines.
Centerlines are painted white on one-way roads and multi-lane highways, while the ones painted yellow are on two-lane highways.
The general rule for centerline striping is, solid line = no passing, broken line = passing is okay but do so with caution.
Edge stripings are painted solid white on the edges of the road. This helps vehicles avoid the shoulder of the road which is usually dipped.
White Solid Line
Not all solid lines are meant to be uncrossed. A normal white solid line means you cannot, by any means, cross over it.
However, a wider white solid line means to observe great care when crossing.
Double Solid White Line
If the white line is doubled, that means crossing is not allowed at all.
These are solid white lines going across the road. This is used by pedestrians when crossing the road. Vehicles must give the right of way to the pedestrian if no traffic signals are present.
Warning signs such as school zones and RR crossings can also be lettered white on the pavement. This gives a heads up to pedestrians and drivers alike.
Traffic Signals in Alabama
The most common traffic signals are your red, green, and yellow lights. But there are also other elements in play, such as arrows and lane use signals.
Let’s take a look at these.
Red, Green, and Yellow Traffic Lights
We’ll be surprised if you don’t know these signals already.
Green means go. Red means full stop until the light turns green. Yellow means slow down before making a full stop. It also means you need to clear the intersection if needed.
Red Flashing Signal
They usually come with crossbuck signs. If the red light starts to flash, it means a train is near.
Besides your basic circle traffic lights, there are sometimes arrows that come with them.
Green arrows mean you can proceed to the direction where the arrow is pointing. Yellow arrows mean you have to slow down and are no longer allowed to go past the intersection.
Lane Use Signals
Lane use signals alert vehicles of which lane they can or cannot use.
A red X means the corresponding lane cannot be used.
A green arrow pointing down to its corresponding lane means that the lane is open for use.
A yellow X means the lane poses potential hazards but is okay for use.
So there you have it!
The complete guide to every road sign, marking, and signal in Alabama.
So the next time you see one of these signs up ahead, you know exactly what it means. In turn, this will help you become a safer driver.
This article is part of our series on Alabama Driving Laws. You can view all these laws here!