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The importance of road traffic signs
Statistically speaking, the UK is one of the safest places to drive in Europe. Part of the reason for this is the extensive use of traffic signs across the UK’s road network. Traffic signs are essential to maintaining order on the road.
Drivers, riders and pedestrians rely on these signals for information on what to do and how to behave. Without traffic signs and road markings, you wouldn’t know who has priority or where you’re allowed to turn, park or wait. You wouldn’t be able to tell the speed limit, the distance to the next junction, or when to give way, among many other things
Road signs and the driving test
You won’t be able to pass the driving test without a good understanding of each of the UK’s road signs. The theory test will assess your broad knowledge, while the driving test will assess your interpretation of any traffic signs you come across during your drive. An incorrect response to a road sign will lead to a failed driving test.
The signing system
Although it appears random at first glance, the size, shape and colour of all road traffic signs in the UK follow a specific pattern. This pattern is known as the signing system.
On the top level, there are three types of signs; Signs that give orders, signs that provide warnings and signs that give instructions.
Circle road signs
Road signs that give orders are always circular and have a blue or red border.
- Blue circle signs give positive mandatory instructions such as minimum speed allowed or one-way road ahead.
- Red circle signs tell you what not to do, e.g. no overtaking, no u-turns, or no vehicles over a certain width allowed.
Below you can find a complete list of all road signs that give orders.
Triangle road signs
Road signs that give warnings are always triangular with a red border. Red triangle signs alert you to hazards such as bends, crossroads, dual carriageways and roundabouts.
Occasionally red triangle signs are combined with a rectangular plate that contains additional instructions. For example, beneath a give way sign, you might find a plate with the distance in yards to the give-way line.
Below you can find a complete list of all road signs that give warnings.
|Sign||Description||What Does it Mean|
Distance to STOP Line
|A red triangle on top of a rectangle plate. The triangle is upside down, and the plate shows the distance to the stop line ahead.||This warning sign tells you how far away you are from the stop line. The distance is in yards, and you must stop – completely – when you reach the stop line.|
Distance to GIVE WAY line
|A red triangle on top of a rectangle plate. The triangle is upside down, and the plate shows the distance to the stop line ahead.||This warning sign tells you how far away you are from the give-way line. The distance is in yards, and you must give way to any road users on the major road when you reach the give way line.|
Traffic Signals Ahead
|A set of traffic lights within a red triangle.||This sign warns you of traffic lights up ahead. Check your mirrors when you spot this sign and ease off the gas if there’s following traffic.|
Part-time Signals Ahead
|A set of traffic lights within a red triangle, with a rectangular plate beneath.||This sign warns you of part-time traffic lights up ahead. Proceed with caution if you spot this sign when the signals aren’t working.|
|Red triangle sign with crossroad markings. Vehicles on the main road have priority.||This sign warns you of a crossroad junction up ahead. Look out for traffic emerging from the minor roads when you spot this sign.|
|Red triangle sign with a ‘T’ marking.||This sign warns you of a T-junction up ahead. Priority should be given to road users turning left.|
Staggered Junction Sign
|Red triangle sign showing a major road with minor roads on either side.||This sign means you’re approaching a staggered junction. You have priority as you’re on the main road but look out for vehicles and pedestrians emerging from either side road.|
Side Road Sign
|Red triangle sign showing a major road with a minor road on one side.||This sign warns you of a side road up ahead. You have priority as you’re on the main road but look out for vehicles and pedestrians emerging from the side road.|
Traffic Merges Onto Main Carriageway Sign
|Red triangle sign showing a slip road joining a main carriageway||This sign means traffic on the minor road will be merging onto the main carriageway. When you spot this sign, build up your speed to match the flow of traffic on the carriageway. Doing so will help you merge onto the carriageway without inconveniencing other road users.|
Traffic Merges From The Left Sign
|Red triangle sign showing a major road with an adjoining slip road.||This sign warns road users on the main carriageway of traffic joining from the left-hand side. Consider changing lanes to the right if you pass this sign and spot traffic on the slip road.|
|Red triangle sign showing a circle made up of broken lines||This sign means you’re approaching a roundabout. Start the MSM routine in good time when you spot this sign, and look for a safe gap to join the roundabout.|
Bend to The Right Sign
|Red triangle sign showing a road bending to the right.||This sign means you’re approaching a right-hand bend. Proceed with caution when you spot this sign as your visibility could be restricted. Move over towards the kerb to improve your line of sight.|
Level Crossing With a Gate
|Red triangle sign with the image of a gate||This sign warns you’re approaching a level crossing with a gate. Be prepared to stop if the gate is down or closing.|
Rectangle road signs
Road signs that provide information are rectangular and either blue, green or white in colour.
- Blue rectangles provide information, for example, tram path – look both ways. Blue road signs also give directions on motorways.
- Green rectangle signs provide directions on primary routes.
- White rectangle signs provide directions on non-primary routes, and they’re also found beneath red triangle warning signs and regulatory signs.
Below you can find a complete list of all informational road signs.
|Sign||Description||What Does it Mean|
|The ring road sign has a yellow border, a green background and an uppercase R in the middle.||The sign means the road you are on is part of an orbital road that loops around a specific location.|
|Rectangular sign with a black border and white background. The signs provide information on non-primary routes||The signs restrict the use of vehicles in a specific area.|