Understanding Roadway Driving Signs

Understanding the meaning of driving signs is essential for driving safely and for passing the DMV written and road skills tests. Road signs and traffic signals give you vital information about safe driving speeds, dangerous road conditions, emergencies and detours, and other information you need to arrive safely at your destination.

Road signs have probably been around for as long as roads themselves. When cars were first on roads, road signs often relied on written words to communicate with drivers. Now, common road signs increasingly use pictures and symbols to overcome language barriers. Understanding how road and traffic signs are designed can make it easier to remember what they mean.

The Color of Driving Signs Indicates Meaning

In the United States, road sign colors are categorized into the following groups.

  1.  Red  is used on prohibitory signs, such as ‘Stop’ signs and some ‘Yield’ signs.
  2.  White  backgrounds are for regulatory road signs, such as speed limits.
  3.  Green  road sign backgrounds indicate guidance information, such as street signs, highway markers, directional guidance, and signs indicating cultural and recreational points of interest.
  4.  Yellow  is used for roadway warning signs, including some ‘Yield’ signs.
  5.  Brown  signs indicate city and town limits and provide information on places of cultural and recreational interest.
  6.  Orange  -colored signs are reserved for roadway work-zone warnings.
  7.  Fluorescent light-green  colored signs are used for school zones and pedestrian crossings.
  8.  Blue  signs let drivers know about nearby services, such as gas, lodging, and tourist information. Blue is also used for evacuation route signs.

Driving Sign Shape and Meaning

Different shapes are also used to indicate specific information and warnings. For example, octagons are used for ‘Stop’ signs, inverted triangles indicate ‘Yield,’ horizontal rectangular signs provide roadway guidance, circular signs are used at railroad crossings, and pentagons are used in school zones.

Learning to Read Driving Signs before the DMV Test

When you take a driver’s license written test, you must answer questions about the meaning of road signs, as well as other questions about driving rules and regulations applicable in your state. To learn this information, get a free copy of the Driver’s Handbook for your state and study it for several days before taking the DMV driving tests.

Online driver’s license practice tests are also available. Practice tests ask you questions similar to the questions on the actual DMV test, including about the meaning of road signs. Taking practice tests until you feel confident makes it easy to pass the real test when you go to DMV.

You must also be comfortable with the meaning of driving signs when you take the road-skill test for your driver’s license. On the road, you must instantly recognize these signs and symbols and be able to follow what they say. To gain practice reading driving signs while you are driving, get a learner’s permit and practice behind-the-wheel with an experienced driver before you take the DMV road test.

Andrea Leptinsky


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