When you first learned to drive, you probably got a list of road signs and their meanings in your Driver’s Ed class. If you didn’t have a class at school, you could always check the index of road warning signs in your driver handbook issued by the DMV in your state.
Some warning signs are so familiar that it would be very difficult to forget what they are. Other road warning signs and meanings are a lot easier to confuse. After all, you probably don’t see a slow-moving vehicle sign every day.
All road warning signs and meanings are intended to be made clear from the words and pictures on the sign. But everyone has a situation now and then when the meaning isn’t so obvious.
With that in mind, Cheap Insurance has developed a list of road signs and their meanings for you to use. While this doesn’t include every road sign out there, it’ll help you recognize all the ones you’re likely to come across if you go on a road trip—when the majority of road sign confusion happens.
What Are the Functions of Road Signs?
Before we go into the road warning signs and meanings, it’s important to understand the purpose of road signs. After all, the average driver puts more than 13,000 miles on their vehicle per year, so with so much time spent on the road, you need to make sure you follow traffic signs. Here’s what road signs are meant to do:
- Command attention. These signs come in various shapes and colors to get the attention of drivers.
- Warn drivers. These signs warn drivers of various road conditions, such as construction work, curves, school zones.
- Maintain traffic flow. Without stop or yield signs, there would be more accidents because traffic would not flow properly. Road signs help keep traffic flowing properly.
Different Colors of Road Signs
You can find traffic signs in all the following colors:
- Red: Only used for stop, yield, and prohibition signs
- White: Used for the background of regulatory signs to improve visibility, especially at night
- Green: Provide information on permitted direction of traffic flow and movement
- Orange: Construction or detour
- Fluorescent Yellow or Green: Used for pedestrian crossings and school zones
- Coral: Only used for incident management signs, e.g. traffic emergencies ahead
- Brown: Indicate sites of cultural interest or recreation areas open to visits from the public
- Blue: Guide drivers to services, provide information for tourists, or show evacuation routes
What Are the 8 Shapes of Road Signs?
Road signs also come in eight shapes with specific purposes. This is because these signs are important and need to stand out to drivers to warn them. Here are the eight shapes you need to know as a driver:
- Octagon: Every stop sign is a red octagon
- Triangle: Yield signs are red and white inverted triangles
- Vertical rectangle: This is for regulatory signs
- Pentagon: These signs mark school zones
- Circle: This shape signifies a railroad crossing
- Pennant: These elongated flags signify no passing zones
- Diamond: These are warning signs, such as for work zones
- Horizontal rectangle: These are guidance signs
If you can’t quite remember what a sign is for, referencing the color and shape can help. But it’s always best to remember the sign instantly so you can start to take action without needing to think about it. That’s one of the most important elements of defensive driving.
List of Road Signs
During your daily travels, you’re bound to see various road signs. Here are some common traffic signs and their meanings:
1. Stop Sign
A stop sign is one of the few red road warning signs and the only one with an octagonal shape, making it recognizable from far away. The text is white and there is a white border for visibility. At a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop. You must stop fully at the stop line, crosswalk, or intersection.
2. Narrow Bridge Sign / Road Narrows Sign
These are both diamond-shaped signs that depict a path becoming more narrow in the middle. They both indicate the driver is about to reach a point where the way ahead narrows compared to the road they are currently on. Bridges typically narrow due to the absence of shoulders.
3. Divided Highway Sign
This diamond-shaped sign depicts two wavy arrows pointed in opposite directions along with a tunnel at the bottom, between the arrows. It communicates that there are two lanes of opposing traffic on the oncoming highway and that they are divided by a guardrail, concrete barricade, or a strip of land.
4. Slow-Moving Vehicle Sign
Slow-moving vehicle is a very rare road sign displayed on the back of qualifying vehicles. It is an orange triangle with a red border for visibility. Drivers in Pennsylvania may see these displayed on the back of a horse-drawn buggy. When you see this sign, it is a cue to reduce your speed and maintain a safe distance.
5. Slippery Road Sign
Slippery road is a yellow, diamond-shaped sign that depicts a car at the top with two wiggly lines emanating from the wheels. These indicate reduced traction due to rain, snow, or icy conditions. Reduce your speed and avoid sudden changes in direction, especially on bridges and overpasses that freeze quickly in the cold.
6. Two-Way Traffic Sign
This diamond-shaped sign depicts two vertical arrows, side by side, with the arrowheads pointed in opposite directions. It discloses that you are on a road with traffic going in two directions. Unlike the divided highway sign above, traffic flow may be divided only by a double yellow line.
7. Side Road Sign
A side road sign is a diamond-shaped sign with a black marking that looks similar to a sideways “T.” It warns that there is a side road that enters the highway near this area. There is a danger of collision if traffic emerges from the side road unexpectedly. Reduce speed and keep your eyes peeled.
8. No U-Turn Sign
Rules about 180-degree turns vary a great deal by state. The no U-turn sign is a white, square sign with an arrow that bends over against itself, crossed out in red. Do not make a U-turn in this area. Proceed until you reach an intersection where your desired turn can be made, or change direction by circling the block.
9. Merge Sign
The merge sign is a diamond-shaped regulatory sign that features a black border. In the center of the sign is a large black arrow pointing upward, with a small diagonal “tail” curving to the bottom right to show merging. This tells drivers that two separate roadways will merge into one and they should get into the correct lane.
10. Interstate Sign
An interstate sign is a blue sign that consists of a rectangular directional indicator – north, east, south, or west – and a red and blue shield-like emblem giving the name of the interstate in white text: For example, “Interstate Colorado 25 North.” This helps you navigate the interstate highway system at major intersections.
11. Guide Sign
A guide sign is usually a green rectangular sign with a white border and text. It gives the names of landmarks and how far away they are in miles. It may also point a direction so you know whether you need to take the next available turn. Rest area signs, street signs, exit marker signs, and toll road signs are all guide signs.
12. Do Not Pass Sign
A do not pass sign is a white rectangular regulatory sign with black text. It indicates that the stretch of road ahead is not safe for passing. No passing zones are created based on reduced visibility. Hills, curves, and other features may directly reduce visibility or create other hazards that would be hard to avoid while passing.
13. Dip Sign
This diamond-shaped sign features the word “DIP” in capital letters. This alerts drivers to an area of lower elevation in the road. It is suggested that drivers slow down when they see the sign. Passing through a depressed roadway at high speeds could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
What Are the Most Important Road Signs?
So you’ve just gone through the 13 signs above. This can be a lot to take in, especially if you’re a newer driver. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a cheat sheet of the most important signs to look for? We’ve got you covered! Here is a list of road signs that are the most important:
- Stop signs. Many accidents happen at stop signs because drivers are not being alert. They are not fully stopping, or they are not looking for pedestrians. Make sure to stop before the solid white line and look both ways.
- Speed limit signs. These signs tell you the fastest speed you should be going. These signs are important because if you go too fast, you could get into an accident. Plus, you could also get a speeding ticket.
- Yield signs. When you see this sign, you must give other vehicles the right of way. Oncoming traffic does not have to stop, so if you don’t stop, you could cause an accident and be held liable.
What Are the 4 Categories of Road Signs?
The road signs you learned about above can be organized into several categories. Here are the four main categories of traffic signs and their meanings:
1. Regulatory signs. These are red, black, and white traffic signs. They consist of common signs such as stop signs, yield signs, and wrong way signs.
2. Warning signs. These are yellow diamond signs that indicate danger up ahead. Examples include school signs and crossing signs.
3. Guide signs. These are typically green, brown, or blue. They serve as road markers and can also give directions and show points of interest and services.
4. Construction signs. These are orange signs that inform drivers of road work and detours.
What Are the Most Commonly Misunderstood Signs and Symbols?
While most traffic signs are self-explanatory, there are some that can be misunderstood. Here is a list of several confusing traffic signs and their meanings.
- Give Way. This is shaped like a yield sign and says the words “Give Way” in black text on a white background. This sign means yield, but many drivers believe they are supposed to roll down their windows and listen for approaching drivers.
- No Motor Vehicles Allowed. This sign is a white circle with a red border. Inside the circle are images of a car and motorcycle. More than 30% of drivers think this sign means that only cars and motorcycles are allowed. However, it is just the opposite—cars and motorcycles are not allowed.
- No Waiting. This sign is a blue circle with a red border and red line through it. More than half of people think that a No Waiting sign means no parking or no entry. What it means is that you can park, but just long enough to drop off or pick up a passenger. Anything beyond that is considered waiting.
We hope this list of road signs and their meanings will help you stay safe on your next trip. Another way to stay safe is by having the best car insurance. You can compare car insurance online with Cheap Insurance right now. Get started or contact our team to find out more!