These are the Most Common Road Signs and Their Meanings

stop sign

Driving the in the U.S. is similar to many other modern countries when it comes to directions and signage. Regardless of where one goes, there are going to be similarities in signs and symbols for directions. While there is some variation from state to state, toll roads being one of the biggest ones, signage uniformity has allowed the U.S. road system to improve traffic and trade tremendously by simply making navigation standard. That means there are going to be a number of common sign types people we see whether they are in Florida, California, Alaska, or Kansas. 

Traffic Control Signs

These types of signs are the most critical ones to pay attention to as they literally direct the flow of traffic. Not paying attention to traffic control signs can probably get one into an accident pretty quick. They direct everything for direction to priority of who passes to interaction flow such as at an intersection or interchange.

Stop Signs

Requiring a driver to literally stop and not proceed right away from a given location, the STOP sign is very obvious with all red octagon shape and white lettering. The expectation is that the driver makes a complete stop right where the sign is before proceeding. This is frequently to force a check for oncoming traffic, look for an open opportunity, and to avoid high speed collisions with cross traffic. 

Yield Signs 

Designed as an upside-down white triangle with a white background, vivid red border and red lettering, the Yield Sign works as a soft stop sign, allowing a person to drive through a location if everything meets expected criteria. Again, the issue in these situations is that there is cross traffic or, alternatively, traffic has to merge with oncoming cars. Yield signs are often used with roundabouts, merging into higher speed larger routes, as well as when road converge with each other. 

Speed Limit Signs

Almost self-explanatory, speed limit signs literally state the maximum speed limit allowed on a given route. These signs are rectangular in shape, white background and use a thin black border with black lettering. They are most frequently seen on highways, but speed limit signs can be seen around town, near schools, near high-traffic pedestrian areas, and on county roads cutting through farm country.  White speed limit signs are generally controlled by local jurisdictions, they tend to be uniform across the country and on interstates. Local jurisdictions agree to this approach as part of their requirements to access federal transportation funds. Temporary speed limit signs can be imposed as well for traffic construction or changes. Sometimes these will be orange instead of white.

Green Direction Signs

The next most common road sign drivers will see, especially on interstate routes and highways, are green direction signs. These are also standard and help people plan when they need to take an exit or switch to a different route to get to a destination or temporary stop. 

Green Destination Signs

Designed to provide multiple pieces of information in one sign, green destination signs have to be big enough to see at a distance but allow enough information to tell someone the route they are on, the destinations ahead, and how far away they are. By combining all three, a driver can instantly gauge whether to prepare to make a change, get off the route or just keep going forward without any adjustment. 

Green Marker Signs

Mile marker signs provide the mile distance for drivers so they can track how far they have traveled on a given route. Most drivers don’t pay attention to these, but when something happens on the road, it’s very helpful for locating when someone can give emergency folks the number of the nearest mile marker and route the person was on when the accident or emergency occurred. 

Blue Hospitality Signs

If you’re driving down the road or highway and looking for the next gas station or restaurant, a blue sign is probably going to be your best indicator for an answer. These signs include everything from rest areas to motels and fuel stops. They come in multiple shapes, depending what is to be communicated, and are often a few miles ahead of the relevant exit turnoff one needs to take to access the services.

Blue Rest Area Signs

Almost always on interstate highways, blue rest area signs are unique for the rest area station made available for long-distance travelers. Anyone can use the station, but these are intended for folks who are traveling great distances and need a break point in more remote areas. Intentionally placed where there is no development, rest area stations allow people to stretch, get out of the car, eat something, take a nap, or get some water. Sometimes the stations have snack machines as well. Some of the most notable rest stations tend to be a summit points crossing mountain ranges.

Blue Tourist Signs

Also intended for travelers, blue tourists’ signs highlight where a specific major tourist attraction is located. While the same information might be on a green direction sign, a blue tourist sign stands out because of its difference from everything in terms of signage. 

Yellow Road Warning Signs

Yellow signs represent the largest collection of road signs people will see while driving. While the most recognizable tend to be yellow and diamond-shaped, they come in a variety of forms with at least 50 different message types. The bottom line to remember whenever any of these appear is that they are a warning of changing road conditions. Many will have a symbol that conveys the road condition issue. A swerving arrow that looks like a snake means curves are head. A traffic light symbol means that an intersection with a control light is ahead. Two arrows merging into one means converging traffic into less lanes. In every situation where a yellow sign appears, a driver should be ready to slow down and change according to what conditions require for safe travel. 

Orange Road Signs

Just like red is synonymous with significant risk and the need to stop or slow down considerably, orange is direction associated with road construction or road condition changes that are serious. Most orange signs are temporary and removed once the construction or issue is removed. However, they can last for weeks, depending on the conditions. Most orange signs either provide a symbol to interpret or letters and words expressing the message. A key factor here is to slow down safely, provide plenty of space between your vehicle and the construction work ahead, and watch out for construction workers near the active road area one is driving through. 

Brown Location Signs

Finally, brown location signs point out a location of interest. While these could have been lumped in with blue tourism signs, brown signs are unique in that they often are associated with sites of historical heritage or natural resources, such as parks. 

Sourcing Signs for Local Needs

Worksafe Traffic Control Industries has been the go-to source for all types of road signs, as well as keeping signage in compliance with national and regional standards, particularly for the more unique sign types needed. Whether it’s general and common signs needed or unique location-specific signs, Worksafe TCI can help you help others get where they need to go reliably. Give us a call to discuss what you might need and how we can help.

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