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Traffic Control Signage and Devices

By Edited Apr 11, 2016 1 4

Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Driving Safely

Traffic Control Devices

All signs, signals, markings and other devices used to regulate, warn, or guide traffic, placed on, over, or adjacent to a street, highway pedestrian facility, or bikeway is considered a control device by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) was created because of the need for uniform standards for traffic control devices.  The MUTCD has all national design, application, placement, standards, guidance, options and support provisions for traffic control devices for the purpose to give uniformity of traffic control devices; which include signs, signals and pavement markings to promote highway safety and efficiency on the Nation's streets and highways.  Title 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations states that the MUTCD is the NATIONAL STANDARD for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway and bicycle trail open to public travel.

The United States follows the International System of traffic control devices to provide for safe movement of traffic.  The system uses pictures and symbols instead of words on signs with a few exceptions.  Familiarity of signs shapes is important to know while driving on the highways and roads due to weather changes such as signs covered with snow and mud or spray painted.  Knowing the shape of a sign will give you a general meaning and tell you what actions you need to take.

Colors in the International System have meaning and tells you what actions you need to take.

    •    Red - Prohibited or to stop
    •    Green - Gives general guidance or movement permitted
    •    Blue - Directs drivers to services
    •    Yellow - Caution or warning
    •    Black on White - Regulatory signs
    •    Orange - Warns of construction
    •    Brown - Public recreation and scenic guidance

Painted curbs have special meaning too.

    •    Blue - Handicapped parking only
    •    White - Quick pick up or drop off passengers
    •    Red - No standing, no stopping or no parking
    •    Yellow - Fast load or unload for deliveries

The only time you should not obey the instructions of any official traffic control device is if directed by a police officer.  The order of precedence of control would be a police officer, a lighted signal and last a sign.

Stop Sign(53431)

Stop Signs is an eight sided, octagon shaped sign, red with white in-color.  Knowing the shape of the stop sign helps when weather conditions such as snow is covering the sign.  Because you know the shape you understand you need to make a complete stop.

Stop Line

Stop Lines are sometimes used as a stop sign.  A Stop Line is a wide solid white line across a lane or lanes.  You treat Stop Lines just as if it were a stop sign, you stop.

Yield Sign

Yield Signs have three sides and triangular in shape with red and white in-color.  Yield means slow down, make sure nobody is coming and be ready to stop if needed.  If the path is clear you don not have to come to a complete stop if you can blend into traffic safely.

Do Not Enter Traffic Sign

Do Not Enter Signs is square, red and white in-color.  Do Not Enter Signs are usually at the end of a one-way ramp or street to keep traffic from entering the wrong way.

Wrong Way Traffic Sign

Wrong Way Signs is supplement of the Do Not Enter Signs.  Red and white in-color and usually posted where an exit ramp intersects a crossroads or crossroads intersects a divided highway in a way that may invite wrong-way entry.

Railroad Crossing Signs have three different signs.

RailRoad Sign

A circular shape warning you that you're approaching a railroad grade crossing and is yellow and black in-color.

Railroad Sign Flashing Lights

Many railroad crossing have a gate with flashing lights that close when a train is coming.

Railroad Sign No Gate

Some crossing that don't have a gate may have this sign.  You're being warned that a train is coming when the lights are flashing.

Obeying Railway Signals

When railway signals activate or crossing gates being lowered or if a flag-man gives a signal to stop, this informs the driver that a train is coming and the driver should prepare to stop.  It's against the law to drive any vehicle through, around, or under and crossing gate or barrier that closed or is in the process of being closed.

Regulatory Traffic Sign

Regulatory Signs are usually rectangular in shape with white background with black lettering.  Regulatory signs tell drivers of speed limit, no parking, reducing speed, turning, passing, etc.  Regulatory signs also assign truck weight limits for certain roadways and instruct drivers the direction of traffic.

No U-Turn Traffic Signs

Prohibitory Signs show what's prohibited.  A white background, image shown with a red slash over image that's prohibited.  Prohibitory signs communicate the DO NOTS such as enter, turn, U-turn, pedestrians, or parking.

Warning Traffic Signs

Warning Signs are yellow, except indoor special circumstances.  Diamond shaped with four sides.  The sign gives a warning of an immediate hazard.

    •    Merge
    •    Divided Highway Begins
    •    Lane Reduction
    •    Lane Added
    •    Crossroads
    •    Side Road
    •    Right Curve

No Passing Zone

No Passing Zone Sign is a supplementary warning sign that has three sides, pennant in shape and yellow in-color.  It is usually posted on a two-lane road to warn of the beginning of a no-passing zone.

Advisory Speed Traffic Sign

Advisory Speed Signs is another supplement of the warning sign.  Yellow in color and show the maximum recommended speed around a curve, on a ramp or through a hazardous site.  Not be confused with a speed limit sign.

School Crossing Traffic Signs

School Crossing - School Area Signs tell a driver to reduce his/her speed and be cautious of children crossing the roadway.  Usually yellow in-color with five sides and has a pentagon shape.

Service Traffic Signs

Service Signs are commercial services available on conventional highways such as gas, food, lodging, phones, etc.  Usually blue and white with a picture of the service provided.

Guidance Signs are usually used on divided highways or expressways with partial control of access.

   •    Give directions to destinations or to streets or highway routes, at intersections
         or interchanges.
    •    Furnish advance notice of intersections or interchanges.
    •    Direct drivers into the correct lanes in advance diverging or merging movements.
    •    Show distances to destinations.
    •    Identify routes and directions to those routes.

Guide Signs come in many shapes and colors and each one with an important message to help drivers arrive at their destination safely.

Black and White Guidance Route Traffic Signs

Square black and white markers specify U.S. routes and most State routes. The even/odd numbering system also applies to State routes.

Some States design their own markers, which often reflect their individuality.

Mile Marker Traffic Sign

The green and white "mile markers" help us gauge how far we've driven, or how far we need to drive, through a state.

Guidance Green Exit Traffic Signs

Green GUIDE signs direct travelers to the right exit to cities, airports, park-and-ride stations, and other destinations. Green signs also mark bicycle routes.

Interstate Highway Traffic Sign

The familiar red, white, and blue shield tells drivers they are traveling on an Interstate Highway. Even-numbered roads run east-west; north-south Interstates have odd numbers.

Recreational Area Traffic Signage

Recreational Area Signs usually have a brown background with white lettering.  These signs are to inform where public parks and recreation areas are on a numbered highway route, be posted for parks and areas at least to the first point at which an access road intersects the highway.  Brown signs direct drivers to public recreation and cultural interest.  Examples are areas for swimming, skiing, boating and fishing areas.  Brown signs are also used to direct drivers to services in recreation areas, including first aid, post office and food service.

Lines On The Pavement

Imagine driving on a road without lines on the pavement.  Chaos and accidents would probably happen every second.  Lines on pavement communicate their messages through a uniform system of colors, patterns, widths, symbols and words.  Uniformity of these features throughout the country makes it possible for you to immediately recognize the meaning of the markings in any given situation and react to them quickly, enabling you to travel safely and efficiently on the roadway.

Lines and symbols painted on the roadways tell you when you may pass other vehicles or change lanes, which lanes to use for turns and where you must stop for signs or traffic signals.

Broken Traffic Lines

Single Broken Line:  You may pass other vehicles or change lanes if you can do so safely without interfering with traffic.  This applies to either white or yellow broken lines.

Broken Traffic Lines with Solid Traffic Line

Single Solid Line With Broken Line:

If you're on the side with the solid line, you may not pass other vehicles or cross the line except to make a left turn into a driveway. If you're on the side with the broken line, you may pass if it is safe to do so and your driving will not interfere with traffic.

Double Solid Traffic Lines

Double solid lines:

You may not pass, or change lanes. You may not cross the lines except when turning left to enter or leave the highway (e.g., to or from a driveway or to perform a U-turn).

Single Solid Traffic Lines

Single solid line:

You may pass other vehicles or change lanes, but you should do so only if obstructions in the road make it necessary or traffic conditions require it.

Arrows Traffic Lines


Arrows show which lanes you must use.  You should be in the proper lane before reaching the solid line which separates the lanes.

Diamond Traffic Sign Road Line

Diamond Symbol:

This symbol is used to designate reserved lanes for buses, HOV's (High Occupancy Vehicles) such as car-pools and van-pools, bicycles, or other special vehicles.

Left Turn Traffic Lane

Left Turn Only Lane:

A middle lane (also called a center turn lane) bordered by solid yellow lines with broken yellow inside those is used by traffic traveling in either direction for making left turns only. This lane shall not be used for passing or overtaking another vehicle. When using such a lane travel only a short distance and get out of it in as soon as possible. Make only left turns out of this lane. While waiting to make the left turn hold the wheels straight. If you are rear-ended you won’t be pushed into the path of on-coming traffic.

Yellow Traffic Flashing Hazard Lights

Automatic Traffic Lights:

A constant intermittent flashing yellow light is intended for use where traffic or physical conditions do not justify conventional traffic signals, but where high accident rates indicate a special hazard. Besides at hazardous intersections, you will usually see flashing yellow lights near fire stations as well. "Proceed with caution."

Flashing Red Traffic Light

A red flashing light is actually subject to the same rules that apply to a stop sign. Vehicles are required to stop before entering the nearest crosswalk, at an intersection, or at a limit line when marked, and should only safely proceed after a full and complete stop.

How To Handle Driving Emergencies

Safe Driving and Crash Prevention

Drunk Driving Laws In New York

New York DMV Driver License

Aggressive Driving



Jul 11, 2011 11:03pm
An interesting article on signage on our roads. Actually this confirms my opinion that we have tooooo many signs on edges of our roads.
I believe that they are as bad as using a mobile phone as a distraction. Quite often they tend to confuse more than help.
Many times one sign is put half hidden behind another one and we see the less important one instead of the main one.

I suppose it is more a problem of where and when these signs are positioned that really cause the problem. 110 speed signs suddenly down or up to 60 in short distances are also a problem.

Driving Rules have also changed. They are trying to make us all go through driving tests again. I am sure I would not pass mine after nearly 50 years since obtaining it. The rules are so different.
Jul 11, 2011 11:23pm
Wow, thanks for commenting so soon. My goal for the coming weeks is to write about driving but different aspects of driving. I am now taking the online course to receive a 10% on my auto insurance and thought why not write about the topic I am studying. When it comes time to take the final test, I'll be ready and hopefully pass the first time around.
Jul 12, 2011 1:48am
HB Just another thought do you have roundabouts in america, I believe they are great but at the same time they are the most confusing because people just do not know then to indicate and which lane to be in.
To me it is simple but maybe I am even negotiating incorrectly without realising.
Yes I suppose we all need to update. Theory will be harder to me than practical too. Good luck on this venture of articles. and testing.
Jul 12, 2011 11:58am
They are adding more roundabouts in America. I know of two new ones in the last 5 years here in Marysville, WA (pop 30,000). I'm not used to them so it is awkward navigating them in traffic but then four way stops are often contentious here too.
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