Traffic Road Signs You Should Know

Traffic road signs are there to inform, warn and direct you when you drive. But do you know how to read them? The symbols and color of different signs offer important cues that can help you find your way and stay safe when you're on the road. Here's a few things you may have forgotten since you first learned about road signs in traffic school.

Traffic signs are color coded to make them easier to spot and to give the driver a general idea of what the upcoming sign will say. The wording or symbol on the sign specifies what you are expected to do.

  • Red: See this color and be prepared to come to a stop or to travel in a different direction. Red is most commonly found on stop signs and do not enter signs.
  • Green: This sign guides you with directional information.
  • Yellow: This color indicates a warning about upcoming road conditions or hazards.
  • Black and white: This states the regulations for a stretch of road.
  • Brown: These signs are placed by state and national park services. They directs you to recreational areas or historic spots.
  • Blue: Found along highways, these signs indicate services like gas, food and lodging.
  • Orange: This color indicates upcoming construction or road maintenance. Always slow down when you see orange signs.

Signs and Their Meanings

  • Stop: Everyone knows that the red and white octagon means stop, but remember the law requires you to come to a full and complete stop at the sign. Count to three after your vehicle has stopped before you start moving again.
  • 4-way: Even seasoned drivers can be confused about who has the right of way at a four-way stop. At a four-way stop, all vehicles must come to a complete stop. The first vehicle that reached the intersection then has the right of way. Note that this rule is in effect until all vehicles have cleared the intersection. If the car in front of you has the right of way, you can't follow it through the intersection unless you were the second driver to arrive.
  • Yellow Diamonds: These are warning signs. Their sole purpose is to alert you to changes or hazards in the road ahead. The can inform of things like changes in the road layout or traffic pattern, upcoming school zones or pedestrian crossings. If you see a black arrow with a curvy tail, it means the road is very windy ahead. If you see a silhouette of a car with wavy lines beneath it, that means the road is slippery when it rains or snows. These signs also let you know if the road changes from a divided highway into a two-lane highway, or if you are entering an area where your lane narrows or completely ends.
  • Orange Diamonds and Rectangles: Diamonds indicate that construction or maintenance work is ahead. Slow down as soon as you see them, because most states now double fines for speeding tickets in work zones. Orange rectangles will provide specific instructions, such as the speed limit, any detours and whether devices such as cell phones and two-way radios must be turned off in the work zone.
  • Black and White Regulatory Signs: White signs with the black lettering and the red universal No Sign, a circle with a line drawn through it, inform you of all the things you can't do, such as no left turn, no right turn and no U turn. These signs are also used to indicate traffic patterns, exits and route changes.

Highway Markers
Along with the signs that tell you where and how to drive, there are signs that help you find your way. These signs have large numbers that indicate the route that you're on, sometimes with additional information.

  • Red and Blue Shield: If you see a red and blue shield with white numbers, you're either on or near an interstate. These high-speed highways link major cities throughout the United States. If you see an odd number, you're on an interstate that runs north and south. If you see an even number, the interstate runs east and west.
  • White Shield: If you see a white shield with a black number, you're on a Route. Prior to the construction of the interstate system, routes were the roads that linked different cities and states. A route may pass through residential areas and have sections of wide-open highway.
  • State Highways: There is no national standard for state highway signs, though most are white with black numbers. These roads usually end at the state border; if they continue, the highway may have a different number once you cross the border.
  • JCT: This sign indicates that a junction with a state highway, a route or an interstate is nearby.
  • Arrows: You'll often see arrows beneath route or state highway signs. These tell you which way to go at the next intersection so that you can stay on the highway or route. Often, but not always, you'll find a marker sign on the other side of the intersection to let you know that you're still on the right road.
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