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Highway Code Road Signs

Road signs and their meanings: a concise study

  • All you need to know about highway code signs

Road signs make up at least a couple, if not more, of the questions on the theory test. Sadly, road signs are also one of the few sections where simple common sense doesn’t always come into it – so pay attention.

If you’ve ever looked out of the window as you drive along (as a passenger, that is – idly admiring the countryside is heavily discouraged when you’re actually driving) you’ll have seen plenty of road signs. Some seem fairly easy to interpret – the two old people walking across the road, the zigzag squiggle telling you there are bends ahead, the white circles with the numbers 30, 40, 50 etc. written in them…

But some are less obvious. For instance, the sign denoting a national speed limit. It doesn’t say 60, or 70. It is a white circle with a black diagonal line through it. It’s up to you to know whether that means 60mph (for single-lane roads) or 70mph (for dual carriageways and motorways). How about the sign for no stopping (usually meant for clearways)? That’s a blue circle with a red cross in it. Of course, we appreciate that it’s very difficult to find a visual symbol to represent ‘No Stopping’, but somehow a blue circle with a red cross doesn’t strike us as the most logical choice.

Now you’ve got an appreciation for the complexity of road signs, you can also understand how important it is to know what they mean. The Highway Code does provide a handy ‘dictionary’ of sorts, but you can’t be scrabbling for a book every time you see a sign you don’t know. Get to know the basics, and then at least you can take an educated guess.

Types of Road Signs

Triangular signs, usually with a red border, are warning signs. They tell you about hazards that are up ahead – a low bridge, sharp bends, a risk of flooding or ice.

Square or rectangular signs give information, such as directions, exits on a roundabout or tourist attractions that are in the vicinity. Their colour depends on the road and the purpose – blue signs are for motorways, green signs are for normal roads, brown signs are for tourist information, and yellow signs are for diversions.

Circular signs are for commands. Speed limit signs are a classic example – they’re telling you that’s the maximum speed you can do. It’s not a suggestion, it’s an order. Colour is less important with these signs, although as a rule of thumb a white circle is speed-related, a blue circle tells you what you can and can’t do with your vehicle (like the ‘No Stopping’, or that odd sign with a car and a motorcycle in it, which means Access Only). You’ll never get green, brown or yellow circles, unless someone at the printing office is having a bad day.

If in doubt, though, always check the Highway Code. And make sure you know your road signs for your theory test – you can be certain they’ll test you on at least a couple of them.

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