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Based on the 2024 Driver Handbook

DMV Road Signs and Meanings [Updated Cheat Sheet]

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Use this page to study up on some of the different road signs that may appear on your driver’s license written test.

When you’re ready, be sure to take some free road signs practice tests and study the rest of the driver’s handbook with the help of our other DMV practice test resources including:

Below you’ll find a list of road signs and their meanings. Click through on some of the more common road signs to learn more about them.

Road Signs in the United States

Throughout the U.S. you can find a variety of road signs that have been standardized by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) created by the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

Road signs are designed with simple symbols, colors, and shapes in order to communicate important information quickly and overcome language barriers.

Road Sign Categories

Regulatory Signs:

Regulatory road signs regulate the movement of traffic. They are either black and white or red and white. These signs must be obeyed.

Warning Signs:

Warning signs are black and yellow and are used to warn drivers of potentially hazardous conditions, indicate changes in the road, and recommend safe speeds. 

Warning signs are often shaped like 4-sided diamonds.

Road Work Signs:

Construction signs are orange and black and are placed temporarily around construction and work zones to divert traffic or alert drivers to hazards.

Information, Services and Guide Signs:

Informational signs and guide signs give drivers directions and share information.

  • Green and white signs communicate directions. 
  • Blue and white signs indicate services.
  • Brown and white signs indicate recreational areas or points of public interest.

What are Regulatory Road Signs?

Regulatory road signs are a category of signs that communicate traffic laws and regulations. 

In other words, regulatory signs tell drivers what they are allowed to do and what they cannot do. 

These are rules that all drivers must follow at all times or as indicated by the signs. 

Failing to follow the rules that the signs represent can result in traffic tickets and violations. 

Regulatory road signs are used to:

What color are regulatory signs?

Regulatory signs come in a few main colors and shapes including:

  • White rectangles or squares with black letters. 
  • Red triangles, octagons, circles, or squares with white letters.
  • Fluorescent green or yellow (for certain pedestrian and school crossing signs).

Common Types of Regulatory Signs & Their Meanings

Regulatory Signs

There are a number of common regulatory signs that you will usually see. It’s important to know what they mean in order to stay safe and avoid traffic violations. 

We’ll break down the main groups below. 

Stop Signs & Yield Signs

Stop signs and yield signs are used at intersections to enforce the safe flow of traffic moving in different directions. 

These types of regulatory signs are red and white. 

A stop sign will require you to come to a full stop and obey the right of way rules.

A yield sign will require you to slow down and be prepared to stop if necessary. 

Speed Limit Signs

Speed limit signs are black and white. 

These communicate the maximum speed allowed under normal driving conditions. 

Turn and Lane Direction Signs

Regulatory turn signs and lane control signs are used to indicate which direction traffic must go in certain lanes. 

These types of signs are commonly found at intersections and in areas where the current lane orientation is changing. 

Wrong Way and Do Not Enter Signs

Wrong Way and Do Not Enter signs are used to indicate areas where proceeding will put you on a collision path with oncoming traffic. 

These signs are also red and white. 

Pedestrian Crossing Signs

Pedestrian crossing signs can be found at crosswalks, near schools, and other areas where pedestrians may be crossing the street. 

Depending on the specific location the pedestrian crossing signs may or may not be accompanied by a marked crosswalk, warning lights, or other traffic control devices. 

All drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing the street. 

Parking Regulation Signs

Another common type of regulatory sign are parking regulation signs

These signs indicate where parking is allowed or prohibited. 

These signs may also indicate certain times of the day or days of the week where the parking rules are applied.

What are Warning Road Signs?

Warning signs communicate a lot of different things, but they all have the same core message. 

These signs are used to alert drivers to upcoming changes, traffic conditions, and potential hazards. 

This can include things like:

  • Sharp turns or curves in the road. 
  • Merges and lane changes. 
  • Pedestrian or bicycle crossing. 
  • Wildlife crossing. 
  • Advisory speed limits.
  • Intersections and side roads. 
  • Upcoming traffic control lights and signs. 
  • Road conditions. 

What color are warning signs?

The majority of warning signs are yellow and black. 

They will typically appear as yellow diamonds. 

Some warning signs, like the ones used for pedestrian, school, and bicycle crossings may include fluorescent green or yellow colors as well. 

Common Types of Warning Signs & Their Meanings

Warning Signs

The category of warning signs is large.

Depending on where you’re driving, you are bound to see a wide variety of different warning signs that will communicate all sorts of driving conditions and road changes to watch out for. 

We’ll talk about some of the most common ones below. 

Curves & Turns in the Road.

These types of warning signs are used to alert drivers to unexpected and upcoming curves and turns in the roadway. 

Curved road signs warn drivers to slow down enough in order to drive through the curve safely. 

Some may be accompanied by an advisory speed limit, which is the safe recommended speed to drive through the turn. 

Lane Added Sign.

A lane added warning sign means that a new lane will soon be joining next to the one you are driving in. 

This type of sign should alert you to check your mirrors and blind spots for cars that weren’t there before. 

Wildlife Crossing Sign.

Deer crossing and wildlife crossing signs are posted to alert drivers that animals may jump out into the roadway ahead. 

It is important to slow down and stay alert when you see an animal crossing the road or when you are driving at times when wildlife is more active. 

T Intersections Warning Signs.

T Intersection signs alert drivers to upcoming intersections.

Depending on which road you’re driving on, you’ll need to be aware of traffic turning onto the road you are on. 

Slippery When Wet Warning Sign.

A Slippery When Wet sign warns drivers to slow down when the road is wet, as slippery conditions exist that can cause drivers to lose control. 

Similar signs warn of other road conditions and hazards, such as falling rocks, narrow bridges, and steep hills. 

Pedestrian Crossing Signs. 

Pedestrian warning signs are used to alert drivers to crosswalks and other pedestrian crossing areas on the road ahead. 

You’ll need to keep an eye out for pedestrians entering the road and yield the right of way to them. 

What are Guide Road Signs?

Guide signs are used to communicate directions and destinations. 

They can indicate how far an exit or city is from your current location, alert you to services at the next exit, and mark recreation areas along the route. 

Basically, they are used to tell drivers what’s ahead and how far it is. 

Unlike regulatory signs, which are used to enforce traffic laws, guide signs are used to help give drivers directions and information. 

What color are guide signs?

Guide signs come in a few main colors, depending on what type of information they present. The colors and meanings are as followings:

  • Green and white signs: Directions, distances, and destinations. 
  • Blue and white signs: Services and utilities. 
  • Brown and white signs: Recreation areas and places of interest.

Common Types of Guide Signs & Their Meanings

Guide Signs

Again, guide signs are used to mark directions, destinations, and distances. 

We’ll cover some of the main ones below. 

Interstates & Routes

Interstate and route marker guide signs are used to communicate which roads and highways you are traveling on. 

Freeway Exits

Freeway exit guide signs are likely the type you’ll use most often. 

They’ll often list the exit name, number, and distance. Use these to know when you need to change lanes to exit the freeway safely.

Distances to Major Cities

You’ll see distance signs located along major routes and freeways. 

These will often list the next major cities and how many miles away you are from them.

These signs are also green and white.

Roadside Services

Roadside services can include rest areas, lodging, fuel, dining, hospitals, airports and more. 

These types of signs are blue and white.

Recreation Areas and Points of Interest

These types of guide signs are used to direct drivers to places like campgrounds, hiking trails, lakes, off-road vehicle areas, and boat ramps. 

Guide signs used for these destinations are brown and white.

Traffic Sign Shapes and Colors

The shape and color of a road sign can tell you a lot about what they mean. This design feature makes it easy to recognize certain road signs from far away so you can adjust your driving and identify hazards with plenty of time.

Rectangular, square, triangle, and octagon signs are used for regulatory signs that convey traffic laws and regulations that must be obeyed.

White and red backgrounds are used for regulatory signs.

Diamond-shaped signs are used to communicate warnings of potential hazards and changes in the road.

Yellow and orange backgrounds are used for warning signs.

Special types of road signs to show information about school zones and pedestrians crossings can be fluorescent green and shaped like a pentagon.

Orange backgrounds are used for signs near work zones. 

Circular signs are used for railroads. 

Other colors you’ll see include:

  • Green signs that indicate directions and distances.
  • Blue signs for services along the route.
  • Brown signs for recreational areas and points of interest.

Traffic Light Rules (Green, Yellow, Red, Flashing, Steady)

Just like road signs, traffic lights help to regulate the safe flow of traffic. 

Every driver needs to be able to quickly recognize the different types of traffic lights, and to know what they need to do as they approach them. 

Types of Traffic Lights

Types of Traffic Lights

There are a few different types of traffic lights you’ll encounter as you drive. 

In order to avoid collisions (and traffic tickets), you’ll need to know what each one means. 

There are a few main types of traffic lights:

  • Solid lights. 
  • Flashing lights. 
  • Arrows. 

Solid Traffic Lights

Solid traffic lights are typically found at signalized intersections. 

These are used to direct the flow of traffic moving in different directions. 

When you come to a solid traffic light, you’ll need to obey the current signal until it changes. More on those below.

Flashing Traffic Lights

Flashing traffic lights come in two colors: Red or Yellow. 

These are also used at intersections and other places where traffic moving in different directions moves against one another. 

Flashing lights may or may not change to a solid light. It depends on the particular area or intersection where you’re driving. 

Find out what each type of flashing traffic light color means below. 

Arrow Traffic Signals

Arrow-shaped traffic lights are used to control the flow of traffic turning left or right. 

Arrow lights are typically tied to a particular turning lane, and the signal may be communicating different directions to drive facing the same direction, but going straight. 

Traffic Light Color Meanings

Traffic lights come in 3 colors:

  • Red.
  • Yellow. 
  • Green. 

On the traffic signal itself, the layout of the colors always appears in that order as well from top to bottom: red, yellow, green. 

Find out what each color means below. 

Steady Red Lights

A solid red light means that drivers must come to a complete stop until the signal changes. 

It means: “STOP.”

Running a red light is extremely dangerous and will likely result in a collision or a traffic ticket. 

Depending on the intersection, you may be permitted to:

  • Turn right on red after coming to a stop and yielding to pedestrians and other traffic.
  • Turn left on red, only when turning from a one-way street to another one-way street.

Some red light intersections will prohibit turns on red with posted signs or “No Turn” signals. 

Steady Yellow Lights

A steady yellow light will appear when the green signal is about to change to red.

It means: “Slow down, use caution, and prepare to stop.”

If you are approaching an intersection with a solid yellow light, you should come to a stop unless it is not safe to do so. 

If you are already in the intersection while the light turns yellow, you should continue all the way through. 

Steady Green Lights

A solid green light means “GO.”

Traffic moving in the direction of the green light has the right of way. 

Note that traffic turning on green should still yield to pedestrians crossing the street, bicyclists in the bike lane, and traffic that’s still in the intersection. 

If your light turns green and you cannot completely cross the intersection, you should wait until there is enough room on the other side to do so. 

Flashing Red Lights

A flashing red light means the same thing as a stop sign. 

When you come to a flashing red light, you’ll need to come to a complete stop, yielding to any drivers already at the intersection. You can then proceed when it’s your turn. 

Flashing Yellow Lights

A flashing yellow light is similar to a yield sign. 

It warns of potential hazards ahead, such as a crosswalk.

When you see a flashing yellow light, you should slow down, use caution, and be prepared to stop if necessary. 

Steady Arrows

A steady arrow means the same thing as a steady solid light, but is used to control traffic moving the direction of the arrow. 

Green arrows are used to indicate protected turns, in which the turning vehicles will have the full right-of-way.

Flashing Arrows

A flashing arrow is the same as a flashing solid light. 

A flashing red arrow means turning traffic should come to a stop first. 

A flashing yellow arrow means turning traffic should yield and stop if necessary. 

Broken Traffic Signals

Sometimes, traffic lights can break. 

This can occur during things like power outages, collisions, or road work. 

If you come to an intersection with a broken traffic signal, you should treat the intersection as a 4-way stop sign. 

Why do some traffic lights have 4 lights?

Sometimes, you’ll see traffic lights with 4 (or more) lights as opposed to the standard 3 lights found on red, yellow, and green signals. 

A traffic light with 4 lights typically has a space for an arrow traffic signal for vehicle making turns. 

Meanings of Pavement Markings & Lines on the Road

Along with road signs, traffic lights, and colored curbs, pavement markings and lane lines are used to enforce where drivers can drive and what types of maneuvers are permitted. 

Knowing how to recognize and obey the different types of payment markings is necessary in order to not only pass your driving tests, but to stay safe and avoid traffic tickets in your day-to-day driving. 

We’ll go over the common types of pavement markings you’re bound to encounter while you drive. 

Types of Pavement Markings

There are a variety of different types of pavement markings you’ll need to know while you drive. 

Some will tell you where to drive, some will help you share the road, and others will tell you whether or not you are allowed to pass other vehicles or change lanes. 

The common categories of pavement markings include:

  • Yield markings and stop lines. 
  • Pedestrian and bicycle pavement markings. 
  • Lane Use Arrows. 
  • Two-way traffic markers and centerlines. 
  • Lane dividers.
  • Special and restricted lane markings. 

All of the different types of pavement markings have a similar purpose: to indicate where to drive and who is allowed in the different positions on the road. 

We’ll get into them below. 

Yellow Vs. White Pavement Markings

The first rule to know is the difference between white and yellow pavement markings.

White markings are used to separate traffic moving in the same direction. 

Yellow markings are used to separate traffic moving in opposite directions.

Lane Markings for Two-Way Traffic

On roads with traffic that moves in opposite directions, you’ll see a centerline in the middle of the road. 

These centerlines are yellow. This tells you that traffic in the adjacent lane is coming from the other way. 

Now, the type of yellow line will tell you whether or not passing is allowed. 

If the yellow line is solid, you should not use the opposite lane to pass

If the yellow line on your side of the lane is broken, passing is allowed when you have enough space to do so. 

Read more about broken yellow lines

Edge Line Markings

Edge lines are used to mark the edges or perimeters of the road. 

The right side of the road is marked by a solid white line.

The left side of the road is marked by a solid yellow line. These are common on divided highways and one-way streets. 

Depending on where you’re driving, there may be a shoulder beyond the edge line. The shoulder of the road is only to be used for emergencies or when instructed to do so. Do not use the shoulder to pass other vehicles. 

Stop & Yield Pavement Marking

Stop and yield pavement markings are used to indicate where you should bring your vehicle to a stop. 

Stop lines, or limit lines are thick, solid white lines that are often painted just in front of the crosswalk or before the intersection. 

If an intersection does not have a limit line, stop your vehicle just before the crosswalk so that you do not block any pedestrians or traffic in the intersection. 

Yield markings are a series of upside-down, white arrows. These will be accompanied by yield signs. 

If conditions in the intersection require you to yield to other traffic, pedestrians, or bicyclists, you should yield at the arrows. 

Pedestrian & Bicyclist Pavement Markings

Bike lanes and pedestrian crosswalks also get pavement markings of their own. 

These markings help to alert drivers that they need to be prepared to share the road and/or yield for pedestrians or bicycles crossing their path. 

These markings will take the form of a pedestrian or bicyclist stick figure in white paint. 

Some bike lanes will be divided from the roadway, while others may share the lane with other traffic. 

You’ll need to give the bicyclists enough space while you share the road. 

Shared Turn Lanes and Reversible Lane Pavement Markings

Sometimes, the center lane on a two-way road will feature a shared turn lane. 

Others may be reversible at certain times of the day. 

Reversible lanes will typically feature a set of double, broken yellow lines. There will often be overhead lane control signals to indicate which direction traffic can move at certain times. 

Shared turn lanes will feature white left turn arrows for each direction and will be separated by a broken yellow line next to a solid yellow line. 

Traffic moving in either direction can enter the shared left turn lane when they are turning off the road. 

They can also use this lane to turn onto the roadway from a driveway or side street and merge with traffic when it is safe. 

HOV Lane Markings

HOV lane markings are used to denote carpool lanes. 

These will be indicated by white diamonds painted on the road. 

HOV lanes will also be separated by a white line. 

If the white line is broken, entering and exiting the HOV lane is allowed. 

If the white line is a double solid line, you need to wait before you can enter or exit the carpool lane. 

Turn Lane Pavement Markings (Lane Use Arrows)

Lane use arrows are commonly found at intersections with multiple lanes for traffic moving in the same directions. 

You’ll either see:

  • Left turn arrow. 
  • Right turn arrow. 
  • Straight and turn arrow combination. 
  • Left and right turn combinations. 

Lane use arrows pointing in multiple directions mean that you can any way as indicated by the marking. 

These arrows indicate where traffic in that particular lane is allowed to go. 

Be sure to obey any traffic lights that are controlling the intersection as well. 

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