Road Sign Basics

Posted on by Defensive Driving Team | in Defensive Driving Online

Road signs are there for your safety and protection—listen to what they have to tell you! Road signs are designed to be self-explanatory and easy to follow; however, they can sometimes be confusing.  Of course, road signs don’t work if you don’t see them. As you drive, make sure that you keep scanning above and to the side of the road in order to spot all relevant signs and lights. For new drivers (and as a refresher for older ones), I’ll present a brief summary of the most common kinds of lights and signs.

STOP LIGHTS

*Red lights—whether they are blinking, solid, or an arrow—always mean stop. “Stop” means come to a full stop. If the red light is blinking, treat it as a stop sign.

*Yellow lights mean slow down. Unless you are already in the intersection when the light turns, begin slowing down in order to come to a full stop at the stop line or crosswalk.

*Green lights mean go as soon as the intersection is clear. If there are slow pedestrians, bikers, or other cars still in the intersection, you need to wait until they have moved on.

Now, on to signs.

REGULATORY SIGNS

These signs tell you what you must or must not do on the road. Stop signs, yield signs, one-way signs and do not enter signs all fall into this category.

When you see a stop sign, you need to come to a full stop BEFORE the stop sign. If you come to a full stop and then realize that you can’t see into the intersection, you can pull forward a bit to check for traffic.

Yield signs are another common kind of regulatory sign. Yield signs are triangular, with a red rim and white background. When you see a yield sign, slow down so that you can stop if you need to. Allow other cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians to pass before you proceed.

WARNING SIGNS

These signs, which always have a yellow background, are designed to warn drivers about upcoming obstacles. Most of these signs are diamond shape, except for the sign which indicates a railroad crossing; this is the only round sign in use!

GUIDE SIGNS

These signs indicate the route, highway, or street that you are traveling on. These signs are often, but not always, green.

MOTORIST SERVICE SIGNS

Frequently, blue in color, these signs let you know what services (food, gas, lodging, etc.) are available on the route that you’re traveling;.

CONSTRUCTION SIGNS

Constructions signs are always orange diamonds. They let you know about any approaching construction hazards.

RECREATION AND CULTURAL INTEREST SIGNS

These signs are always brown. They contain information about interesting sights near the route you are traveling on, including places like national parks, museums, and monuments.

If you’d like a very thorough review of traffic signs, check out Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD):

http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/

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