A Quick Guide to Basic Road Signs 

September 28, 2021

Are you feeling a little out of practice when it comes to driving? Last year UK road travel fell to levels last seen in 1955 while lockdown conditions confined many of us to our homes. As life returns ever closer to normality, it might be wise to brush up on your driving knowledge.

Perhaps your motorway driving could do with some work, or you could need a refresher on basic car maintenance tasks. Re-familiarising yourself with different road signs will also be beneficial as you take trips further afield.

There are a wide range of Highway Code traffic signs for different messages, roads and vehicles, some of which you may never have encountered before. Remind yourself of the basics below.

Sign shapes

Most road signs fall into one of three categories, signified by their shape.

  • Circular road signs give orders that you’re legally required to follow. Red-bordered circles tell you what not to do, while blue-bordered circles mean the opposite.
  • Triangular road signs warn of hazards such as sharp bends or dips, and always have a red border.
  • Rectangular road signs provide information, with different colours used on motorways (blue), primary roads (green) and minor roads (white).

National speed limit

White circular signs with a single black diagonal stripe indicate that you can drive up to the national speed limit on the road ahead. These limits vary depending on the road type, however:

  • In built-up areas with streetlamps spaced no more than 200 yards apart, the speed limit is 30mph
  • On a single carriageway, the speed limit is 60mph for cars and vans, or 50mph if you’re towing a trailer or caravan
  • On a dual carriageway, the speed limit is 70mph for cars and vans, and 60mph with a trailer or caravan

Give way

Give way signs are common – but it’s important to be 100% certain on what they actually mean.

These signs warn you of an upcoming junction where the oncoming traffic has priority. You’re obliged to come to a stop and wait for a safe gap before joining the road.

No stopping

Signs with a red cross over a blue background denote a ‘clearway’, which is an area you must leave clear for access and not stop in for any reason.

Sometimes these restrictions only apply at certain times of day, so it’s worth checking the finer details.

No motor vehicles

A red-bordered circular sign with images of a bike and a car indicates that no motor vehicles are allowed down the road ahead. The area is likely to be reserved for pedestrians or cyclists only, which is increasingly common in city centres.

Having a clear grasp of common road signs will give you greater confidence when on the road. Will you know what to do next time you see any of the signs described above?

Featured Photo by Michael Yuan on Unsplash