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Understanding Road Signs

By: Sally Aquire - Updated: 24 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Understanding Road Signs Traffic Signs

Understanding road signs is an important element of driving safely, but many drivers do not have a full working knowledge of many of the different road signs. This can be problematic, as it is not immediately obvious what some road signs are instructing you to do, or what they are warning you about. On most roads, you will only have a split second in which to react to the situation, so it is very important to have a good understanding of as many road signs as possible. Unsurprisingly, it can be a big challenge to know exactly what they all mean!

Traffic Light Signals

Traffic light signals are usually common-sense, and most people automatically know what the three different lights are instructing them to do:
  • Red lights require drivers to stop behind the line until the lights turn green.
  • Amber lights require drivers to get ready for the lights to turn green, but you cannot go until the green light shows.
  • Green lights allow drivers to move off.
  • If a green arrow shows in addition to a red or amber light, you can proceed in the direction that the arrow is pointing (if it is safe to do so), even if the red light is showing.

Flashing Red Lights

If you see these, you are required to stop. These can be found near level crossings or outside fire stations.

Motorway Signals

These are often used to indicate that lanes are closed, or that you should change lanes. These types of signals involve red crosses above lanes or diagonal arrows pointing downwards to the left or right to tell you which lane to change into. They may also give instructions on speed limits, weather warnings and upcoming restrictions and accidents.

Traffic Signs

Signs with red borders are usually related to restrictions. Signs with blue circles (but without red borders) usually refer to what you are allowed to do. Traffic signs to look out for include:
  • School crossing patrol
  • Maximum speed signs
  • Give way signs
  • No entry signs
  • No right turn
  • No left turn
  • No U-turns
  • Give priority to vehicles from opposite direction
  • No overtaking
  • Stop
  • Go
  • One-way traffic
  • Minimum speed
  • Mini-roundabout
  • No waiting

Warning signs

Triangular signs (often with red borders) usually involve warnings. Warning signs to look out for include:

  • Crossroads
  • Roundabout
  • Uneven road
  • Slippery road
  • Dual carriageway ends
  • Steep hill downwards (or upwards)
  • Traffic queues likely ahead
  • Risk of ice
  • Tunnel ahead

Direction signs

These are usually rectangular. On motorways, they are blue, but on primary routes, they tend to be green, and on non-primary and local routes, they are mostly white with black borders. Signs indicating tourist attractions are often brown.

Information Signs

These are rectangular. Signs to look out for include:
  • Motorway
  • Speed cameras
  • Motorway exit countdown markers

Getting to grips with the many different road signs can seem like an extremely daunting challenge, as there are so many of them, but buying a copy of the Highway Code will be beneficial, as many of the signs are featured.

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