All You Need to Know About Road Signs

Nov 5, 2019

All You Need to Know About Road Signs

It doesn’t matter how long you have been driving for, a good understanding of the Highway Code road signs or a refresher is a vital component of your driving skill set. This will be especially important if you have just passed your test and aren’t as familiar with every sign there is!

What do the different roadside shapes mean?

There are hundreds of different road signs and they will all have different meanings however, most will fall into a category based on their shape. For example:

  • Circular road signs – Circular signs are designed to give orders that must be followed to ensure you’re complying with the law. If they have a red border, they are telling you what not to do, such as take a U-turn or go over the 30mph speed limit. Blue circles will give an instruction such as keep to the left.
  • Rectangular signs – Rectangular signs inform, blue rectangular signs give information on motorways, green signs direct you on primary roads, white signs direct you on minor roads. They can also indicate bus zone operating times.
  • Triangular signs – Triangular signs warn, these road signs are designed to warn you about the road layout or any hazards that are ahead, like a sharp bend.

While many road signs may be self-explanatory such as the speed limits, but others may be a bit more difficult to understand. So, we have added some road signs such are commonly misunderstood.

National speed limit:

A white circular sign with a single black diagonal stripe through it tells you that the national speed limit applies to the upcoming road. It supersedes any previous speed signs. But what are the national speed limits?

  • Built-up area: On a road where there are street lamps placed no more than 200 yards apart, the speed limit is 30mph for all vehicles.
  • Single carriageway: For cars and vans, the speed limit is 60mph, or 50mph if you’re towing a trailer or caravan.
  • Dual carriageway and motorway: It’s 70mph for cars and vans, or 60mph if you’re towing a trailer or caravan.

But use your common sense on this, if it’s not safe to do the speed limit, then don’t do it!

Give Way:

This sign is most frequently seen on the UK roads and is designed to warn you of what’s ahead. There are two types of Give Way signs, either with distance in yards to the upcoming junction or with words written in the middle of the sign. These triangles are upside down so it can be recognised if for any reason it becomes defaced.

No Stopping:

A red cross with a blue background means you cannot stop under any circumstances. Sometimes there may only be a restriction at certain times of the day.


This is a sign telling you a minor road joins a major one without crossing it, forming the letter T. This will be placed in busy areas to warn you to be careful as vehicles may be stopping to turn. It will also be used to let you know you’re approaching a busy junction.

No Overtaking:

There are numerous reasons why you might see this sign, such as the road ahead has poor visibility, the road is too narrow to overtake or there’s a high risk of vehicles pulling out from parking spaces or driveways that would increase the chances of a collision.

These are only some of the signs that are commonly misunderstood by drivers, if you feel you need a refresher course on all signs, click here!

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