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As afirst-time driver, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that you need to learn in a short time.
There are so many rules and regulations about driving that you have to worry about on top of paying attention to other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.
It’s a lot to take on. Don’t stress too much, though. You will get better with time and practice. Just take it one day at a time.
You can also learn some helpful hints that will cut down on the amount of information you have to be responsible for.
Sometimes, driving requires us to make fast decisions, and it’s in your best interest to stay educated via online traffic school and other readily available resources.
Another trick is road sign meanings. Color and shape convey just as much information as the words or pictures on them.
In this guide, we will walk you through all of the road signs and their respective meanings so you’ll never be unsure on the road again.
Table Of Contents
- Why Are Road Signs Important?
- Road Sign Colors And Their Meanings
- Road Sign Shapes
- Standard Regulatory Signs
- All Road Signs and Their Meanings
- The Bottom Line
Why Are Road Signs Important?
Road traffic signs are vital because they help keep people on the road safe.
They provide valuable informationto drivers, bikers, and pedestrians about road rules or conditions.
These warning signs help maintain order and prevent injuries and accidents.
Most road signs use pictures or symbols to convey their meaning so drivers can quickly and effectively understand no matter which language you speak.
It’s essential to learn what those symbols mean before you start driving.
Road Sign Colors And Their Meanings
Have you ever noticed that the road signs you see are different colors and shapes?
Things happen at high speeds on the highway, so time is of the essence, especially in an emergency.
Even if you aren’t close enough to see the symbol or adequately read the sign, you can quickly pick up information thanks to its color and shape.
Here are the most frequently used colors you’re likely to see.
- Red: The color red generally means stop;the only red signs are stop, yield, and prohibition signs.
- White: A white background means the sign is regulatory.
- Yellow: Unsurprisingly, yellow generally indicates caution.
- Green: The color green indicates permitted traffic movements or directional guidance.
- Fluorescent yellow/green:This bright hue indicates pedestrian crossings and school zones.
- Orange: Orange is used in work zones for warning and guidance signs.
- Coral:Coral is used for incident management signs.
- Blue: Blue signs are for road user services such as tourist information and evacuation routes.
- Brown:The color brown is used to give guidance to sites of public recreation or cultural interest.
The use of red on road signs means that you have to stop, yield, or that something is prohibited.
Stop signs are the most common red signs.
Yield signs, do not enter signs, and wrong way signs may also use a red border.
Red is a prohibitory color.
If a sign has a white background, it is a regulatory sign.
A very common white sign is a speed limit sign.
You’ll also see white on signs that forbid certain turns, require certain turns, forbid passing, forbid entrance, indicate a one-way road, or notify you of an upcoming reduction in speed, amongst other things.
Yellow is indicative of a general caution message.
It will warn you of changing driving conditions or potential hazards such as flooding or rockslides.
You will see them on the road to warn of narrow roads or bridges, a curve in the road, a merge point is approaching, you’re going to pass a well-hidden cross street, a dead-end or any number of other things.
Sometimes school signs, crosswalk signs and divided highway signs are yellow.
This shade of yellow-green shows that there is a pedestrian crossing or school zone nearby.
This color was chosen because it’s easier to see in unfavorable weather conditions like fog or heavy rain.
Along with pedestrian crossings and school zones, this color is used for bicycle warnings and occasionally construction zones.
Orange signs generally mark roadway work zones to warn or guide drivers.
These road signs are often temporary.
If you see an orange traffic sign, keep an eye out for construction workers or vehicles on the road ahead.
These signs may say things like “road work ahead,” “road closed,” “detour ahead,” or “one-lane road ahead.”
They also frequently use symbols to convey information like that there’s a flagger ahead, the road is narrowing, or there’s an obstruction between lanes.
Uniform traffic control devices or temporary traffic control signs like traffic cones, flags, and stanchions are also orange.
While not flat, mounted signs, these still convey important information.
This creative color displays incident management information.
If you’ve never seen coral, it’s a reddish or orangish shade of pink.
This sign is usually not permanent and you’ll find them placed on temporary holders instead of cemented into the ground.
It will say things like “traffic emergency ahead,” “emergency scene ahead,” “road closed,” or “detour 500 feet.”
Road use services, tourist information, or evacuation route signs use blue.
You typically find them on highways, expressways, or the interstate.
They display information, rather than being regulatory.
These road signs indicate a rest area or tourist site and let you know if the next stop has any campgrounds, hotels, picnic areas, service stations, dining options, and other recreational areas.
Green signs depict permitted traffic movements or give you directional guidance.
You will see this color on street signs (their names), mile markers, exit signs, and signs that show you directions or distance in miles to a particular destination.
This color is in place to guide you to sites for public recreation or that have a cultural interest.
Like the blue signs, they are informational rather than regulatory.
Road Sign Shapes
Though the sign’s color will catch your eye first, you should take a moment to notice the shape of the sign as well.
You can get just as much information from the shape as you can from the color, and every bit of information matters.
Below are the most common road sign shapes.
Octagons are six-sided shapes that are only used to indicate a stop.
You must stop completely at the marked line on the lane or in front of the crosswalk if there is one.
If pedestrians or other vehicles are in your way, let them pass before continuing to drive.
This shape is used for yield signs, which means you have to slow down and let vehicles crossing your way go ahead.
You may have to come to a complete stop to accommodate the other vehicles ahead of you or the pedestrians in a crosswalk.
Take caution when you eventually merge into traffic.
The equilateral triangle is a three-sided shape that looks like it’s sitting right-side up.
This sign will be on the left side of the road and warns of a no-passing zone.
It looks like a triangle (three-sided shape) turned on its side.
Diamonds are four-sided shapes that show there is a warning of some kind.
The picture or text on the sign will give you more information about why you need to go slow down and use caution.
This shape is frequently used at construction sites to warn of road work or lane narrowing.
You also will see them when there’s a dead-end ahead, a curve in the road, or a hidden cross street.
They will often affect the flow of traffic, such as at divided highways
A horizontal rectangle will have its longer side going left to right, just like the horizon.
This four-sided shaped sign will provide you with guidance information.
An example of a horizontal rectangular sign is a “road closed” or “one-way” sign.
A vertical rectangle will have its longer side going up and down, or it might look like a square.
It displays traffic regulations, such as speed limits.
These are informational signs.
Pentagons indicate school zones or school crossings are nearby.
If you are unsure what a pentagon is, it has five sides and looks like a house that you would have drawn as a child.
A crossbuck looks like the letter “x” and gives notice of a railroad crossing.
They’re usually white but can sometimes be yellow.
A circle is used for warning signs like railroad crossing, or ‘do not enter’ signs.
Standard Regulatory Signs
Now we’re going to go into more detail about the traffic signs that you’ll be seeing the most out on the road and what you should do when you see them.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
If you need or want to learn about more road signs, you can check the Department of Transportation’swebsite for a more comprehensive list.
1. Stop Sign
When you see a red stop sign, you have to stop completely for at least two seconds, even if there’s no one around.
If you don’t stop entirely, you risk getting a ticket for a rolling stop or getting into an accident.
If there’s a line ahead of you in your lane, you have to stop before the line.
You should also take notice if the stop sign says it’s a four-way stop or a two-way stop.
2. Yield Sign
Seeing a yellow yield sign means that you need to slow down in your lane and stop for oncoming or crossing traffic.
You have to give the right away to other vehicles, so you may have to wait for the roadway to clear.
3. Speed Limit Sign
You willfrequently see these white signs on the side of the road or lane.
They show you the maximum allowable speed for the road that you’re on.
There is no margin of error for speed limits, so you could get a ticket for even going 1 mph over the posted speed.
You may hear people say different things about it, but the speed limit on the sign comes into effect at the point where the sign stands.
If you’ve been in a zone that was 30 mph and you see a 50 mph, you technically aren’t supposed to go any speed over 30 mph until you reach the next sign.
4. Minimum Speed
A minimum speed sign is similar to a speed limit sign but shows the minimum speed required to travel on any roadway.
Some signs may have a minimum speed and a speed limit together.
Minimum speeds are more common on freeways or the interstate.
5. Do Not Enter
A red and white ‘do not enter’ sign means that the road in question is closed to traffic in all directions.
Pedestrians and bikes can still make use of the lane.
This sign is usually found on one-way streets or where there is an exit.
Keep an eye out for these signs in bigger cities, especially when you aren’t familiar with them, because it’s easy to miss that a road is one-way.
6. Railroad Crossing
These traffic signs precede railroad tracks so you will be aware of them.
They may be circular or in a crossbuck shape.
Railroad crossing signs will also be on the railroad guard arms, along with flashing lights to help warn of oncoming trains.
While usually white, some have yellow backgrounds.
7. No Turn Signs
You may see no left turn, no right turn, or no u-turn signs on the road.
They are typically at controlled intersections or traffic signals and help you stay out of oncoming traffic.
You can find them in construction zones for similar reasons.
8. No Parking
A ‘no parking’ sign is usually a square, white sign with a crossed-out P on it.
It means that you can’t park your vehicle in the area near the sign.
Some no parking signs will have specific days or timeswhen the rules are in effect and when they aren’t.
9. One-Way Sign
A one-way sign lets you know that traffic only flows in one direction on the road or lane that you’re on.
They usually have an arrow on them indicating which direction that is.
One-way streets are much more common in large cities, so if you are driving through one be extra careful, especially if you don’t have any where you live.
You can also tell that a road is one-way by the color of the paint on it: there will be white lines instead of yellow lines.
10. Divided Highway
These diamond-shaped signs are used to mark the beginning or ending of a divided highway.
This means that some sort of physical barrier like a berm, flowerbed, or wall divides the two lanes of traffic.
Divided highway signs are most often yellow or white.
They have arrows going in opposite directions with an oval or line between them at the top or the bottom depending on if the division is beginning or ending.
All Road Signs and Their Meanings
Alright, now that you’ve been debriefed on the colors to look out for on the roads, it’s time to get more specific.
Below, we have included information on all road signs and their meanings.
Feel free to print out this page if you are studying for an online driver’s education course! The signs paired with their meanings are pretty self-explanatory, but let us know in the comments if you have any specific questions.
No U-Turn Sign
No Left Turn Sign
No Trucks Sign
No Parking Sign
No Pedestrian Traffic Sign
Pedestrian Crossing Sign
School Zone Sign
Deer Crossing Sign
Two-Way Street Sign
Right Curve Ahead Sign
Left Curve Ahead Sign
Stop Ahead Sign
Right Turn Ahead Sign
Left Turn Ahead Sign
Workers Present Sign
Flagger Ahead Sign
Emergency Vehicles Warning Sign
Bicycle Traffic Warning Sign
Hill Warning Sign
Left Lane Ends Sign
Right Lane Ends Sign
Chevron Alignment Sign
Once you get acquainted with road sign colors and what they mean, learning the meanings of road signs and their symbols becomes a lot simpler! Remember to always obey road signs—they are there for your safety.
The Bottom Line
There are so many different road signs that you may come across out in the wilds of the roadways.
You don’t have to make it harder for yourself by trying to remember what each sign means, though.
You can just remember what the colors and the shapes represent.
Knowing the meaning of the colors and the shapes will also keep you from being caught off guard by a road sign you’ve never seen before.
The most important thing is to be patient with yourself while you’re learning and practicing safe driving.