Iowa Road Signs (A Complete Guide)

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Preparing to take the Iowa permit test?

Want to avoid getting tickets?

Trying to be the safest driver you can be?

Whatever the case, you need to know the Iowa road signs. And it’s not enough to just know them — you have to obey them, too. 

But how can you do that if you don’t know what half of them mean?

Well, we’re here to fix that. 

In this article, we’ll give you a complete guide to Iowa traffic signs, traffic signals, and pavement markings. We’ll show you the sign and explain it to you. 

So let’s get started!

Iowa Traffic Signs

Traffic signs tell you where you’re going, what the flow of traffic is, and if there are any hazards nearby. 

In Iowa, traffic signs include colors, shapes, warning signs, regulation signs, and guide signs. 

Let’s take a close look at all these. 

Standard Sign Colors

ColorSample SignMeaning
RedStop, yield, or follow what the sign says
GreenGives a direction – the place where you’re going or how far a certain location is
BlueIndicates services available for travelers. This often shows nearby lodging, gas stations, eating places, and hospitals. 
YellowServes as a general warning sign.
Fluorescent Yellow-GreenThis indicates pedestrian, bicycle, and school zones. They act as warning signs.
WhiteTalks about informational laws and regulations (e.g. speed limit).
OrangeWarning sign for road work and temporary maintenance. Watch out for workers ahead. 
BrownThis indicates recreational and cultural locations nearby.

Standard Sign Shapes

ShapeSample SignMeaning
OctagonStop. Come to a full stop before passing through the intersection. If you’re not at an intersection, stop right before the line at the crosswalk or the point where the sign is placed. 
Equilateral triangle / inverted triangleYield the right of way. Slow down and let pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles go first. 
PennantFound on the left-hand side of the road and warns you that there is a no-passing zone ahead. 
DiamondActs as a warning. Slow down and be on the lookout for hazards or changes in direction due to road works. 
RectangleVertical signs indicate regulations, while horizontal signs indicate directions or information on locations ahead.
PentagonIndicates a school zone or school crossing. Slow down and be alert for children. 
CrossbuckRailroad crossing. These are found before railroads and indicate the number of tracks ahead. 
CircleRailroad crossing ahead. Serves as a warning sign. 

Warning Signs

Warning signs make you aware of the hazards or a special situation ahead. When you see these yellow or yellow-green signs, start slowing down and be ready to yield or stop ahead. 

Intersection/CrossroadIntersection ahead. Watch carefully for signals directing traffic. 
Signal AheadTraffic signal ahead.
Merging TrafficYou are approaching merging traffic. Be prepared for vehicles to merge into your lane. 
Two-Way TrafficYou are leaving a one-way traffic lane and approaching two-way traffic ahead.
Divided Highway BeginsThere is a divided highway ahead.
Divided Highway EndsThe divided highway ends soon.
Horse-drawn VehicleSlow-moving vehicles such as horse-drawn vehicles ahead. Reduce speed and pass them carefully.
Merge LeftTwo traffic lanes will merge into one. Right-lane vehicles should yield to the other lane when merging. 
Farm MachineryFarm equipment may be present/crossing ahead. Slow down when approaching. 
Pedestrian CrossingPedestrian crossing ahead. Slow down and yield.
Deer CrossingBeware of deer crossing ahead.
HillYou are approaching a downhill slope. Check your brakes and slow down. 
T-Intersection AheadNo road goes straight ahead. Prepare to go right or left. 
Gradual Right CurveExpect a gradual curve on the road ahead.
Slippery When WetThe road ahead becomes slippery during wet weather. Slow down during this time. 
Chevron SignWarns against a change in direction ahead.
Ramp SpeedThe indicated number is the recommended speed.
Advance School CrossingAdvance warning that you’re approaching a school zone. Start slowing down and look out for children nearby. 
School CrossingSchool crossroads at this point. Reduce speed and look out for children playing or planning to cross the road. 
School Bus Stop AheadWatch out for children unloading or loading the bus. Stop behind the school bus. 

Regulation Signs

Regulation signs MUST be obeyed at all times. If not, then you could get a ticket. 

NameSample SignMeaning
Regulation signs with a red slashTells you what you are not allowed to do. The sample signs mean “no left turn,” “no right turn,” and “no u-turn”
Speed Limit SignsGives the maximum or minimum speed limits on the road you’re on. 
Lane Control SignsTell you where you can go, such as go straight, right, left, or make a u-turn.
Passing SignsShows you where it’s safe to pass and where you’re not allowed to pass. 
Stop SignMake a full stop when you approach this sign. When the road ahead is clear, cross carefully. 
Yield SignYield the right of way when you’re at an intersection or approaching a crosswalk. 
Divided HighwayThe road ahead is divided. Follow the direction stated on the sign. 
Wrong WayYou are going the wrong way. Make a turn or get out of the lane you are in. 
One WayThe lane only moves in one direction. 
Do Not EnterYou are not allowed to enter the road ahead. This is often found on exit ramps or one-way roads.
Slow-Moving Vehicle SignThis is found on the rear of a vehicle that is traveling 35 mph or less. 

Guide Signs 

As we saw, guide signs are rectangular and are often brown, green, blue, or white. They indicate the location where you’re at or the other places found nearby. 

Now, there are two types of guide signs – service signs and route signs. 

NameSample SignMeaning
Service SignsService signs are in blue and indicate services offered nearby, such as lodging, comfort rooms, hospitals, etc.
Route SignsThey indicate the interstate, state, country, or road ahead.

Iowa Traffic Signals

Okay, let’s move on to traffic signals. 

Traffic signals help direct the flow of traffic. In this section, we’ll look at the common traffic signals, the railroad crossings, and the road work zones. 

Common Traffic Signals

Traffic LightsRed – make a complete stop before entering the intersection
Yellow – Slow down as the light will soon turn red
Yellow Arrow – stop first before proceeding in the direction of the arrow. 
Green – go when the intersection is clear
Green arrow – go in the direction of the arrow. 
Flashing Red lightsStop before proceeding. 
Flashing Yellow lightsProceed with caution and yield to vehicles or pedestrians. 
Left-Turn Signal HeadSteady red arrow – stop. Turn left when it’s green. 
Steady yellow arrow – the red light will turn on in a few seconds. Make a stop if you can. 
Flashing yellow arrow – proceed with caution, but yield to vehicles and pedestrians. 
Steady green arrow – proceed to make a left turn.

Railroad Crossings

NameSample SignMeaning
Advance warning signsAdvance warning of a railroad ahead.
Flashing light signals with/without gatesFlashing lights without gates – placed on railroads. When the lights are flashing, make a full stop unless the train has passed. 
Flashing lights with gates – make a full stop right in front of the gate when the lights flash

Road Work Zones

NameSample SignMeaning
Road Work warningA warning sign of road work or maintenance ahead. Be cautious and follow the signs that will follow. 
Flashing arrow panelsFollow the arrows to avoid the road work ahead.
FlaggersPeople that will help direct the flow of traffic during temporary road works. They will be wearing reflective jackets. 
Channelizing DevicesRoad objects that will help direct the flow of traffic near a work zone.

Iowa Pavement Markings

Finally, let’s look at the Iowa pavement markings. 

Pavement markings are meant to regulate and direct traffic on all highways. 

NameSample MarkingsMeaning
One-direction roadwayMarked by a broken white line to show that the road follows the same direction of traffic. 
Two-direction roadwayMarked by broken yellow lines separating two different directions of traffic.
Solid yellow lines beside broken yellow lines indicate that the side where the solid line is should not be used for passing.
Crosswalks, stop lines, directional arrowsThese are usually found at intersections. 
Crosswalks are areas where pedestrians cross. If you are approaching this area, yield to pedestrians. 
Reversible lanesMarked by double-dashed yellow lines indicating that they may be used for different directions at certain times. Look out for road signs that indicate when the lanes change directions. 
Shared center laneReserved for cars making left turns or u-turns when permitted (marked by the arrow in the middle). 
Reserved lane for bus and carpoolsReserved for bus and carpools at a specified time.
Reserved lane for bicyclistsReserved for bicyclists
Reserved lane for High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV)Reserved for carpools with more than one person in them, but the sign specifies the number of people who must be in the vehicle for the lane to be used.


That’s a lot of road signs!

And we know that it can be hard to memorize everything. 

However, it’s a good idea to get the basics, like the standard colors and shapes. With that, you’ll be able to tell if it’s a warning, regulation, or guide sign. 

As for the traffic signals and pavement markings, these are pretty common. Most likely you already know all about that, especially if you’ve been driving for a while. 

So that was your complete guide to Iowa road signs. 

Remember, it’s always a good idea to be conscious of these signs and follow them accordingly. 

Be a safe and responsible driver!

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