Decoding Traffic Signs

Decoding Traffic Signs

Traffic signs regulate traffic and provide important information. Road signs use symbols and pictures as well as written instructions. The shapes and colors of signs are coded to give you a general clue as to what the sign says even before you are close enough to clearly read it.

Traffic signs can help you to be a better defensive driver by helping you anticipate your next move on the road. Traffic signs can help you in the following ways:

WARN of hazards ahead that would otherwise be difficult to see.

GUIDE drivers to their destination by identifying the route.

They INFORM of local regulations and practices.

They REGULATE the speed and movement of traffic.


Different Colors on Traffic Signs specify Different Meanings:

Red Prohibits and commands
White Regulates
Yellow Warns
Orange Warns and controls construction zones
Green Guides and informs
Blue Services for motorists
Brown Historic, culture, or recreation sites


The SHAPE OF A TRAFFIC SIGN can also be an indicator regarding further traffic instruction.

The shape of a traffic sign can give you as much information about the meaning of a sign as the sign’s color or wording. When visibility is poor, such as in heavy rain, dust storms, or fog, you may be able to make out only the shape of a particular sign.

Octagon Exclusively for Stop signs
Triangle Exclusively for Yield signs
Diamond Exclusively to warn of possible hazard
Rectangle Generally for guide signs.
Pentagon School advance and school crossing.
Cross buck Railroad crossing.
Round Railroad crossing and advance warning signs.


If you are eligible to take a driver improvement course for your traffic citation, we highly recommend Cheap Easy Fast Online Traffic School. The course is entirely free to try, and it’s approved by all California courts. They also operate online and video courses in other states. Check their website to see if your state is included. Until next time, keep your eyes on the road!

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