All the Essential Info on Road Signs

We know that a lot of modern cars come with road sign recognition features that will let you know of a change in speed limits and upcoming hazards but we should all still know the road signs we might encounter.

Road Sign Shapes

There are four main shapes of road signs you might encounter:

  • Circular
  • Triangular
  • Rectangular
  • Arrowed

The different shapes are used to indicate the type of information the sign will contain to help you know what you are looking at when passing quickly.

Circular Road Signs

If a sign is circular this means that it contains an order than you must obey. Not doing so will not only be dangerous but illegal and could land you with several points on your licence and a hefty fine depending on the order.

If the circle is white with a red outline like the one shown below on the right then this will be an order not to do something.

All the Essential Info on Road Signs

If the circle is blue then it will be an order to do something or indicating a route that is available to only some users, such as buses or cyclists.

Speed Limits

Speed limits will usually be shown on a circular sign with a white background and red outline as it is an order not to exceed this speed.

The other speed limit sign you might see is a white circle with a diagonal black line through it. This indicates that the national speed limit now applies and will be a different speed depending on the type of road you are travelling on. In a built up area it will be 30 mph, though it is rare for the sign to be used in these conditions, in a non-built up area it will be 60 mph and on a road with multiple lanes traveling in the same direction, such as a dual carriageway, it will be 70 mph.

You may also see some speeds on a blue circle – this is a minimum speed limit and you must be driving at this speed or faster. Minimum limits are rare and will usually be used where it is dangerous for you and other road users to be travelling slowly such as an enclosed tunnel. The end of a minimum speed limit will be shown on the same blue circle but with a diagonal red line through it.

You might see speed limits incorporated within other signs, but they will still be a red ring around a number on a white background.

Triangular Road Signs

Triangular signs are used to warn you of upcoming dangers. These dangers can include a variety of different animals, narrowing lanes, junctions, roundabouts, cross-winds, and much more.

Most permanent warning signs will have a white background with a thick red outline and then the hazard in black in the centre, and most will have two points at the bottom and narrow to a single point at the top. However, there are some occasions when the triangle will be inverted, with the wide part at the top, to make them stand out – such as a warning of an upcoming give way junction.

Rectangular Road Signs

Rectangular road signs are used to give you information. This can include directions at upcoming junctions, distances to specific locations, upcoming restrictions and a lot more.

You will usually see these signs in one of six colours: blue, green, white, black, brown and yellow.

Where you’ll find blue, green or white road signs will depend on the type of road you are travelling on, as they are only used in certain areas.

Blue road signs are used in two areas – on motorways and in built up areas, due to the nature of the roads a motorway will never be in a built-up suburban area. On the motorway the signs will give you directions, distances and upcoming service locations. In a built up area they will usually be used to show a bus lane, dead end and other information on the road itself.

Green signs will be used for primary roads, such as an A road or a B road and white signs will be used on smaller roads that have lower traffic levels. These signs will usually be giving directional indications.

Occasionally, you may see a black rectangular sign. These are used to give information on advised routes for HGVs to help them avoid roads with weight, width and height restrictions to the location.

Tourism Signs

The colour brown is used for tourism signs, both as a rectangle and arrow or as a symbol incorporated as part of a larger sign, such as one showing the direction of roundabout exits.

There are a whole host of different tourist attractions that might have a brown sign, and they can be one of the symbols shown below on its own or alongside a location name.

All the Essential Info on Road Signs

Temporary Road Signs

Yellow road signs are used for temporary road information and instructions. These are most commonly found in areas where there are roadworks, an event or for a diversion route.

They will usually be a rectangular sign but can also be directional and some diversion routes will be indicated by a symbol on a smaller square sign such as the central ones below.

All the Essential Info on Road Signs

All the Essential Info on Road Signs

 Arrowed Road Signs

You may also see road signs that look like an arrow. These are directional signs and will let you know what is in the direction of the point and the distance to it.

You will see several colours of directional road signs based on the same locations and road user principles we’ve already explained.

Other Road Signs

There are a few other road signs that you might encounter which do not fit into these categories. The most important of which to recognise is the stop sign. This is a red hexagonal sign that has stop printed in white in the centre of it. This is the only sign you will see in this shape and colours and this is intentional to make it stand out as it is command that must be obeyed. Not stopping at a stop sign and making sure it is safe to move off before you do so can be incredibly dangerous.

All the Essential Info on Road Signs

Other signs you might see include a notification of upcoming speed cameras such as the one shown on the right above, or that you are in a school patrol area and may need to stop for crossing children (centre).

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