Traffic Signs: Driving Awareness

Driving carefully is crucial for keeping everyone safe on the road. A big part of safe driving is being familiar with and understanding road signs. You need to recognize signs immediately without having to think about their meaning, as these signs can provide important information that you need to be able to act upon quickly. Learn about the colors, shapes, and symbols on road signs so you can recognize them from a distance as you’re driving.

Common Road Signs

Signs have specific shapes that communicate the purpose of the signs. Stop signs are octagonal, and yield signs are shaped like upside-down triangles. Warning signs are diamond-shaped, and pennant-shaped signs tell drivers that they are in a no-passing zone. Round shapes indicate a railroad crossing, pentagons are usually used in school zones, and signs that are shaped like shields mark routes on interstate highways. Horizontal rectangles are guide and information signs, and signs that are square or vertical rectangles are regulatory, announcing rules like speed limits.

Colors are also an important component of road signs and traffic safety. Red is reserved for stop signs and other signs that give urgent commands. These important signs are red because red is bold and attracts attention. Yellow signs communicate warnings about hazards that are permanent. The yellow color stands out easily from surroundings and gets drivers’ attention. Green signs are informational to direct drivers to specific places, and green is chosen for these signs to be less distracting for drivers. White signs are regulatory, showing speed limits and other notices, and these signs are also designed to be less distracting. Orange signs are used for construction, brown signs show points of interest such as recreational areas, and blue signs show drivers where to find assistance or services.

Road signs often use symbols to communicate instead of words. A picture of children on a pentagon sign indicates a school zone, a squiggly arrow on a yellow diamond sign warns of a winding road, and a diamond sign with both up and down arrows indicates two-way traffic. If you encounter a diamond sign with a small image of a stop sign and an up arrow, you know that a stop sign is ahead. A blue square sign with an “H” on it tells you that a hospital is located nearby. A circle sign with a large “X” and two “Rs” shows that a railroad crossing is ahead.

Construction and Road Barriers

Orange signs warn drivers of upcoming construction zones. It’s imperative to heed traffic control signs for construction carefully because construction workers are often working very close to where traffic is moving. An orange diamond sign showing a person holding a flag indicates that a flagger is ahead, and an orange diamond sign with a person digging with a shovel warns of workers ahead. Other orange diamond signs may indicate utility work, shoulder work, or lane closures. Orange rectangular signs may tell drivers about exits closed, detours, slow traffic, or the end of road work.

Regulatory signs include red stop signs and yield signs. Regulatory signs with white backgrounds may be square or vertical rectangles, and the letters are usually black. Regulatory signs include “Do Not Enter” signs, “No Left” and “No U-Turn” signs, “No Trucks” signs, “No Parking” signs, speed limit signs, reserved parking signs, weight limits for roads, one-way signs, and divided highway signs. If a highway has reversible lanes, regulatory signs will provide instructions for motorists. Other regulatory signs include emergency signal signs, tow-away zone signs, and HOV lane signs.

Additional articles and information about the author: Adam Hart