The Ultimate Guide to UK Road Signs and Meanings

Road Sign Theory Test
Last updated: Thursday, 9th November 2023
UK Road Signs and Meanings

Understanding road signs is a vital aspect of safe driving, and it's an area you'll need to master to pass your DVSA theory test. This comprehensive guide will walk you through UK road signs, their meanings, and how you can learn them when preparing for the DVSA driving theory test.

Whether you're getting ready for your theory test or just looking for a refresher on road signs, this article gives you everything you need to know about road signs in the UK and their meanings.

Key takeaways

  • Master the road sign questions in the DVSA theory test by understanding traffic signs, regulatory signs, warning signs and road sign colours and shapes

  • Familiarise yourself with common UK road markings

  • Use effective road sign revision resources to help you prepare for the DVSA driving theory test

What are the different types of UK road signs?

The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for establishing the standards and regulations for UK road signs, including traffic lights. Road signs play a pivotal role in guiding and informing drivers, pedestrians, and other road users.

Given the number of road signs and variations, it's not surprising that the Highway Code devotes a significant portion of its content to road signs.

Regulatory, warning, and information signs are three common categories of traffic signs. These road signs often have distinct shapes and colours, making them easily recognisable and serving specific purposes to ensure road safety.

For example, red circular signs with a white background are usually regulatory in nature, while triangular warning signs warn drivers of upcoming hazards. Informational signs, on the other hand, have rectangular shapes and display useful information, such as directions or distance to a specific location.

Understanding these UK road signs and their meanings will not only help you pass your theory test but also make you a more informed driver, capable of reacting to various situations on the road.

In the following sections, we'll explore these three types of traffic signs in the UK and gain a deeper understanding of their roles in ensuring the safety of all road users.

Regulatory road signs

Regulatory road signs provide orders to road users, including both prohibitive and positive instructions.

No Overtaking Regulatory Road Sign

Regulatory signs are mostly circular with a red border and white background, or circular with a blue background. However, Stop signs and Give Way signs are exceptions, but they still have red backgrounds and white lettering.

Speed limit signs are also regulatory signs, but they come in a variety of shapes and colours to indicate different speed limits. For example, a white circular sign with a black diagonal line indicates the national speed limit, while a red circle with numbers inside indicates the maximum speed limit for that specific area.

Some examples of regulatory signs include:

  • Give Way road sign
  • Stop road sign
  • No Entry road sign
  • One-way traffic road sign

These signs inform drivers about the regulations they need to follow to maintain a safe and orderly traffic flow, especially when encountering oncoming traffic and traffic lights ahead.

On the other hand, blue circular signs require you to take action and give you positive instructions. For instance, a road sign with an arrow pointing to the left means that you must proceed left ahead.

Warning road signs

Warning road signs alert drivers to potential hazards or changes in road conditions. Triangular signs, usually red in colour, are used to provide warnings.

Roundabout Warning Road Sign

These signs might warn of an impending hazard, such as a sharp bend or a pedestrian crossing, giving drivers ample time to adjust their speed or position on the road. Warning road signs are vital in helping drivers anticipate and react to potential dangers on the road.

Some examples of warning road signs include:

  • Sharp bend ahead
  • Traffic queues likely ahead
  • Pedestrian crossing ahead
  • Low bridge ahead

Information road signs

Information road signs provide crucial information about routes, upcoming junctions, motorways, exits, and directions to specific locations. They also display distances to these locations to help drivers plan their journeys effectively.

Dual Carriageway Information Sign

They are rectangular in shape and can have blue, green, white, brown or yellow backgrounds.

For instance, a blue rectangular sign might indicate that you're on a motorway, while a green rectangular sign would signify a primary route that is not a motorway. Information signs help you stay on track, ensuring that you reach your destination without getting lost.

Examples of information road signs include:

  • Motorway services ahead
  • Exit for town centre
  • Tourist attraction ahead

What are the different road sign colours and shapes?

Now that we've explored the different types of traffic signs, it's essential to understand how their colours and shapes carry specific meanings. In the UK, the most common colours of road signs include:

  • Red: Either indicates prohibitions or restrictions or warns of potential hazards or dangers

  • Blue: Provides instructions, information or guidance

  • Green: Indicates directions or routes

  • White: Provides regulatory information or instructions, such as the National Speed Limit sign

  • Brown: Indicates tourist attractions or points of interest

  • Yellow: Warns of temporary traffic conditions or diversions, and gives instructions and information, such as road works signs

Each colour typically represents a specific type of information, while the shapes of road signs - circular, triangular, and rectangular - have distinct purposes as well.

Understanding the meanings tied to the colours and shapes of road signs enables you to quickly identify and respond to the information on the road sign. This knowledge will not only help you pass your driving theory test but will also ensure you're a safer and more aware driver on the road.

Circular road signs

Circular signs are regulatory road signs that give orders or prohibitions, with red circles indicating prohibitions and blue circles indicating positive instructions.

For example, a red circle with a white horizontal line signifies that there is no entry for vehicles, while a blue circle with a white arrow requires drivers to turn in the indicated direction.

Grasping the distinction between prohibitive and positive instructions is essential for road safety and passing the DVSA theory test.

Red circle road sign

Red Circle Road Sign

Blue circle road sign

Blue Circle Road Sign

Triangular road signs

Triangular signs serve to provide warnings, alerting drivers of potential hazards ahead. These signs might warn you of an upcoming pedestrian crossing, a sharp bend, or even an area with livestock crossing the road.

Triangle Road Sign

These road signs always have a red border. By paying close attention to these triangular warning signs, you can anticipate potential hazards and react accordingly to ensure the safety of all road users.

Imagine driving on a rural road and encountering a triangular sign with an image of a sheep. This sign warns you that sheep may be crossing the road ahead, so you should reduce your speed and proceed with caution.

Rectangular road signs

Rectangular signs provide information and guidance to drivers, displaying important details such as directions, routes, distances, and locations. These signs can be white, blue, green, yellow or brown in colour.

For example, white rectangular signs provide directions on non-primary routes, while blue rectangular signs are used on motorways.

White rectangular sign

White Rectangle Road Sign

Blue rectangular sign

Blue Rectangle Road Sign

Green rectangular sign

Green Rectangle Road Sign

Yellow rectangular sign

Yellow Rectangle Road Sign

Brown rectangular sign

Brown Rectangle Road Sign

Special UK road signs

There are special UK road signs that do not meet the standard colour or shape guidelines. Examples of these signs include:

  • Lane control signs: These are used on motorways to indicate which lanes are open or closed. Drivers must obey them at all times.
    Motorway Lane Control Sign

  • The National Speed Limit sign: This black and white circular sign with a diagonal line through it indicates the national speed limit for that road or motorway.
    National Speed Limit Sign

  • The Give Way sign: This inverted triangle sign with a red border and white background instructs drivers to give way to traffic on the major road ahead.
    Give Way Road Sign

  • The Stop sign: This is an octagon-shaped sign in red, instructing drivers to come to a complete stop at the designated point before continuing their journey.
    Stop Road Sign

  • Pedestrian zone signs: These signs indicate areas where pedestrians have priority over vehicles, and drivers must be particularly careful in these zones.
    Pedestrian Zone Road Sign

  • Bus lane signs: These blue and white signs show the times during which the bus and cycle lane is operational. Vehicles that are not buses or cycles cannot enter during these times.
    Bus and Cycle Lane Road Sign

UK road markings and their meanings

As well as road signs, you may also be tested on road markings in the DVSA driving theory test. These markings, such as yellow criss-cross patterns at junctions or double white lines, can help reinforce the information shown by road signs and ensure road safety.

Knowing the road markings and their meanings, combined with an understanding of UK road signs, will help you become a more responsible and safe driver.

Our theory test app includes over 900 road signs and road markings. You can download the Driving Theory Test Assistant app now and take a free road signs test.

Do you want to pass your theory test?

If you're taking the DVSA driving theory test, we recommend taking the time to learn the UK road signs and markings thoroughly. Understanding their meanings will not only help you pass your theory test but also make you a safer and more aware driver on the road.

Driving Theory 4 All's Driving Theory Test Assistant app is the perfect way to familiarise yourself with road signs and markings and prepare for your theory test.

With over 900 road signs and road markings practice questions, the Highway Code, the latest DVSA revision questions and hazard perception clips, exclusive study content, unlimited mock tests and progress tracking, it has everything you need to pass your driving theory test with confidence.

Download the Driving Theory Test Assistant app now and start preparing for your theory test today.

Frequently asked questions about UK road signs

The best way to study for your theory test and remember road signs is by using the Driving Theory Test Assistant app. By practising with over 900 road sign questions, you can familiarise yourself with their meanings and learn to identify them quickly.

No, road signs vary from country to country. It's essential to understand UK road signs if you're taking your driving theory test in the UK.

Looking for information about other theory test centre locations? Find your nearest DVSA theory test centre

Yes, the DVSA driving theory test includes questions about road signs. It's essential to study and understand them thoroughly to pass your theory test.

There are 50 multiple-choice questions in the DVSA driving theory test. The test includes road sign questions.

Each colour on UK road signs serves a specific purpose. For instance, red is typically used for stop and prohibition signs, and blue provides mandatory instruction.

The three primary categories of traffic signs are regulatory, warning, and information/direction signs.

While the fundamental road signs in the UK remain consistent, the Department for Transport may occasionally introduce new signs or modify existing ones to improve road safety.

This article contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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