As drivers, especially those new to the big open road, road signs are going to be one of the most prevalent things you’ll need to pay attention to while driving – that is, of course, second to the other drivers on the road with you. Defensive driving skills are always the most important.
While those of us who’ve been driving for a while have figured out and learned what all the signs we see mean, the number of signs used can be a bit intimidating for a new driver. Yes, you learn them in your driver’s education courses, but we’ve taken it upon ourselves to list them all here, as well as an in-depth (or as in-depth as possible, as some are quite simple and require little explanation) description of their meaning to provide easy access for those wanting to study up on them a bit more.
Road Sign Colors & What They Mean
Every road sign has a specific color associated with it. The color of road signs can immediately tell you what they are about. Here are the colors you may be asked about during your written driving exam:
Red – Signs which are red in color refer to situations where you must stop or yield. Obviously, stop signs and yield signs use the color red, but other signs such as do not enter and wrong way signs can also use red coloring. Other examples of road signs using red include no u-turn signs, no turn on red signs, and sometimes no parking signs.
Green – Green road signs are direction signs. This color is used for things like street signs (the names of streets), exit signs, mile markers, and signs showing you directions to a certain city or the distance to a specific place.
Blue – Signs that are blue in color are not regulatory signs. Instead, they display services for travelers. These signs are normally found on expressways and highways, directing motorists to where they can find places such as rest areas, tourist sites, hospitals, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, campgrounds, picnic areas, and other services commonly used by motorists.
Yellow – Yellow road signs are general warning signs to indicate potential hazards or changing road conditions ahead. For example, road signs that use the color Yellow may warn you that there is a narrow bridge ahead, a railroad crossing, a no-passing zone, curves in the roadway, a merge point, pedestrian crossing, a dead-end, an uneven surface, a hidden cross street, or any other number of potential hazards.
Fluorescent Yellow/Green – This color is relatively new on our roadways, but it is used for signs relating to pedestrians, bicycles, and school warning signs. They are increasingly being used for some constructions signs as well. This color is used because it is easier to see during foggy or rainy weather.
Orange – Orange road signs are usually temporary signs relating to road work, temporary traffic control, and maintenance warnings. When you see orange road signs, be sure to watch for workers on or near the roadway.
Brown – Similar to blue road signs, brown signs are not regulatory signs. These signs indicate areas of recreation and cultural points of interest. Brown road signs will mark or give directions towards historical sites, parks, picnic areas, and other recreational areas.
Road Sign Shapes And Their Meanings
Similar to different road sign colors, you can also tell what a road sign means by looking at its shape. Here are the standard shapes of road signs, along with what they mean:
Octagon – A road sign in the shape of an octagon will always be a stop sign. Come to a full stop at an intersection controlled by this sign. Stop at the marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk or before your vehicle enters the intersection. Let other vehicles or pedestrians pass if they are in your path.
Equilateral Triangle – This sign shape is used for yield signs. Yield the right of way. Slow down and let vehicles crossing your path go by. If necessary, stop before going ahead. If pedestrians are in or about to enter the crosswalk, stop until they have crossed the roadway, then proceed.
Pennant – This sign will be on the left-hand side of the road or highway. It warns you of a no-passing zone.
Diamond – Diamond shaped signs are used as warning signs. These signs alert you to special road hazards. Words or pictures on the sign will show you why you need to slow down or use extra caution.
Rectangle – These will be regulatory or guide signs. Vertical signs indicate what you should or should not do, such as speed limit signs. Horizontal signs give directions or information about services drivers may want.
Pentagon – A road sign in the shape of a pentagon will refer to a school crossing or school zone. The color of the sign may be yellow or florescent yellow/green.
Crossbuck – All railroad crossing signs are this shape and are placed at each crossing. Sometimes there is a number under the crossbuck which will show you how many sets of tracks there are.
Circle – This sign shape indicates a railroad crossing is ahead.
Standard Regulatory Signs
Let’s get into further detail about what standard regulatory signs are. You’ll see all over the road, pretty much no matter where you are. They include:
Stop – This sign, as you might have guessed, means you need to stop wherever you see one. They are almost always accompanied by a line across the road at which you should stop, and most areas require you come to a full and complete stop before proceeding.
Yield – This sign is meant to alert you to any upcoming hazards, road conditions, or oncoming traffic (there are signs which signal for you to yield prior to merging to avoid accidents). It means slow down, defer to oncoming traffic, stop if necessary, and proceed when it’s safe to do so. A flashing yellow light at an intersection serves for this purpose as well.
Speed Regulation Signs
These signs are designed to indicate the speed at which it is appropriate to go on a certain road. There are some that indicate a single speed, and some that indicate two speeds: the maximum allowed on a road, and the minimum allowed on a road. These may be changed under certain circumstances, such as road work or similar, and should be followed to maintain safety for all using the road.
Speed Limit – Indicates the maximum speed on a road for standard vehicles. This maximum speed indicates the safest maximum speed during ideal driving conditions.
Minimum Speed – Usually seen on highways and expressways, this sign indicates the minimum allowable speed during regularly flowing traffic.
Truck Speed – On some roadways, larger vehicles must abide by different speed limits. This sign indicates the maximum speed for larger trucks and vehicles.
Combination Speed – Indicates both the maximum and minimum speed for all vehicles on the road; most often used on highways and interstates to avoid collisions.
Turns And Lane Usage Signs
Just as the road itself is painted to indicate turning lanes and the like, there are signs to indicate where you can and can’t turn, u-turn, take a left turn into oncoming traffic, etc. These come in the form of:
No Right Turn – This sign is used to indicate a street that you can not turn right onto. Most often, you will see these in downtown areas.
No Left Turn – This sign is used to indicate a street that you can’t turn left onto. Again, most often seen in downtown areas.
No U-Turn – This indicates that a U-turn is not legal in an area where this sign is posted. Typically, it is because the area has too much traffic (for instance, oncoming traffic as well as traffic coming out of road-side shopping centers, etc.) to safely allow a U-turn.
Left Turn Only and Right Turn Only – These will usually be paired with the no-turn equivalent of its opposite sign.
Movement Regulation Signs
These signs will indicate moves a driver can make on any particular road, and for some, also indicate when to start a movement – usually in the case of roundabouts, where a certain lane can take you left or right. They are:
Do Not Pass – Indicates, as you might have guessed, that you can’t pass in an area where this is posted.
Pass With Care – This one indicates, as you probably guessed that it is an area where it’s safe to pass as long as you use common sense and caution.
Keep Right – This one means you should keep right. It is usually seen in areas where a divided median begins, or in construction areas.
Keep Left – The same as keep right, only now it’s left.
Selective Exclusion Signs
These signs will all indicate that you’re basically doing it wrong, or that you shouldn’t be where you are right now, if you’re where you shouldn’t be. Allow me to explain:
Do Not Enter – If you see this sign, it means you don’t belong there, and should probably stay out. Usually, it’ll be posted at the beginning of an exit that is meant to come out where you’re trying to go in but can also be used for other areas as well.
Wrong Way – Much like the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign, it indicates that you’re where you shouldn’t be. For example, you’ll see this sign posted on one-way roads facing away from flowing traffic. That way, if someone drives down a one-way road the wrong way, they will see this sign.
No Parking – This one means you can’t park wherever it is. Some no parking signs can be a bit confusing with different days and times shown. Be sure to read them carefully.
Emergency Vehicle Parking Only & Fire Lane – This sign will indicate that only emergency vehicles such as police vehicles, ambulances, and firetrucks can park in the area.
VIDEO: Study Your Road Signs!
Page Last Updated On July 16, 2019