Traffic signs or road signs are signs erected at the side of or above
roads to give instructions or provide information to road users. The
earliest signs were simple wooden or stone milestones. Later, signs
with directional arms were introduced, for example, the fingerposts in
and their wooden counterparts in Saxony.
With traffic volumes increasing since the 1930s, many countries have
adopted pictorial signs or otherwise simplified and standardized their
signs to overcome language barriers, and enhance traffic safety. Such
pictorial signs use symbols (often silhouettes) in place of words and
are usually based on international protocols. Such signs were first
developed in Europe, and have been adopted by most countries to
1 International conventions
4.2 Sierra Leone
5.1.1 Hong Kong
5.11 Saudi Arabia
5.13 Sri Lanka
5.15 United Arab Emirates
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
6.9 United Kingdom
Northern America and Oceania
7.1 Color schemes
7.2 Highway symbols and markers
7.5.1 Uses of non-FHWA typefaces
7.6 New Zealand
8 South America,
Central America and the Caribbean
9 Automatic traffic sign recognition
10 See also
11 Image gallery
13 External links
13.3 North America
13.3.2 United States
Various international conventions have helped to achieve a degree of
uniformity in Traffic Signing in various countries.
Sign warning of cattle crossing in a rural road of
Traffic signs can be grouped into several types. For example, Annexe 1
of the Vienna Convention on
Road Signs and Signals (1968), which on 30
June 2004 had 52 signatory countries, defines eight categories of
A. Danger warning signs
B. Priority signs
C. Prohibitory or restrictive signs
D. Mandatory signs
Special regulation signs
F. Information, facilities, or service signs
G. Direction, position, or indication signs
H. Additional panels
In the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand
signs are categorized as follows:
Street name signs
Route marker signs
Recreation and cultural interest signs
Emergency management (civil defense) signs
Temporary traffic control (construction or work zone) signs
Railroad and light rail signs
In the United States, the categories, placement, and graphic standards
for traffic signs and pavement markings are legally defined in the
Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
Devices as the standard.
A rather informal distinction among the directional signs is the one
between advance directional signs, interchange directional signs, and
reassurance signs. Advance directional signs appear at a certain
distance from the interchange, giving information for each direction.
A number of countries do not give information for the road ahead
(so-called "pull-through" signs), and only for the directions left and
right. Advance directional signs enable drivers to take precautions
for the exit (e.g., switch lanes, double check whether this is the
correct exit, slow down). They often do not appear on lesser roads,
but are normally posted on expressways and motorways, as drivers would
be missing exits without them. While each nation has its own system,
the first approach sign for a motorway exit is mostly placed at least
1000 m from the actual interchange. After that sign, one or two
additional advance directional signs typically follow before the
actual interchange itself.
17th century traffic sign in Salvador street, Lisbon,
which traffic should back up to give way:
Year of 1686. His Majesty commands all coaches, carriages and litters
coming from Salvador's entrance to back up to the same part
Speed camera sign used in Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia,
Finland, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Latvia, Malta,
Poland, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and the
The earliest road signs were milestones, giving distance or direction;
for example, the Romans erected stone columns throughout their empire
giving the distance to Rome. In the Middle Ages, multidirectional
signs at intersections became common, giving directions to cities and
In 1686, the first known Traffic Regulation Act in
established by King Peter II of Portugal. This act foresees the
placement of priority signs in the narrowest streets of Lisbon,
stating which traffic should back up to give way. One of these signs
still exists at Salvador street, in the neighborhood of Alfama.
The first modern road signs erected on a wide scale were designed for
riders of high or "ordinary" bicycles in the late 1870s and early
1880s. These machines were fast, silent and their nature made them
difficult to control, moreover their riders travelled considerable
distances and often preferred to tour on unfamiliar roads. For such
riders, cycling organizations began to erect signs that warned of
potential hazards ahead (particularly steep hills), rather than merely
giving distance or directions to places, thereby contributing the sign
type that defines "modern" traffic signs.
The development of automobiles encouraged more complex signage systems
using more than just text-based notices. One of the first modern-day
road sign systems was devised by the Italian Touring Club in 1895. By
1900, a Congress of the International League of Touring Organizations
Paris was considering proposals for standardization of road
signage. In 1903 the British government introduced four "national"
signs based on shape, but the basic patterns of most traffic signs
were set at the 1908 International
Road Congress in Paris.[citation
needed] In 1909, nine European governments agreed on the use of four
pictorial symbols, indicating "bump", "curve", "intersection", and
"grade-level railroad crossing". The intensive work on international
road signs that took place between 1926 and 1949 eventually led to the
development of the European road sign system. Both Britain and the
United States developed their own road signage systems, both of which
were adopted or modified by many other nations in their respective
spheres of influence. The UK adopted a version of the European road
signs in 1964 and, over past decades, North American signage began
using some symbols and graphics mixed in with English.
Over the years, change was gradual. Pre-industrial signs were stone or
wood, but with the development of Darby's method of smelting iron
using coke, painted cast iron became favoured in the late 18th and
19th centuries. Cast iron continued to be used until the mid-20th
century, but it was gradually displaced by aluminium or other
materials and processes, such as vitreous enamelled and/or pressed
malleable iron, or (later) steel. Since 1945 most signs have been made
from sheet aluminium with adhesive plastic coatings; these are
normally retroreflective for nighttime and low-light visibility.
Before the development of reflective plastics, reflectivity was
provided by glass reflectors set into the lettering and symbols.
New generations of traffic signs based on electronic displays can also
change their text (or, in some countries, symbols) to provide for
"intelligent control" linked to automated traffic sensors or remote
manual input. In over 20 countries, real-time Traffic Message Channel
incident warnings are conveyed directly to vehicle navigation systems
using inaudible signals carried via FM radio, 3G cellular data and
satellite broadcasts. Finally, cars can pay tolls and trucks pass
safety screening checks using video numberplate scanning, or RFID
transponders in windshields linked to antennae over the road, in
support of on-board signalling, toll collection, and travel time
Yet another "medium" for transferring information ordinarily
associated with visible signs is RIAS (Remote Infrared Audible
Signage), e.g., "talking signs" for print-handicapped (including
blind/low-vision/illiterate) people. These are infra-red transmitters
serving the same purpose as the usual graphic signs when received by
an appropriate device such as a hand-held receiver or one built into a
"T" junction road sign on a desert track in Niger.
Traffic Sign in Eritrea
Road signs in Mauritius
Road signs in Mauritius are regulated by the Traffic Signs Regulations
1990. They are particularly modelled on the British road signs since
Mauritius is a former British colony. Mauritius has left-hand traffic.
Road signs in Sierra Leone are standardized road signs closely follow
those used in
Italy with certain distinctions.
Road signs in Hong Kong
Road signs in China
Warning signs in
China are triangular with a black border, yellow
background and black symbol.
Mandatory signs generally follow European conventions (circular with
red border/blue circle) with some local variations.
Direction signs are:
Green for expressways
Brown for tourist attractions
And blue for other roads.
Occasionally black on white is used for directions to local
Road signs in Hong Kong
Hong Kong's traffic signs follow the British road sign conventions and
are bi-lingual in English and Chinese (English on top, and Traditional
Chinese characters at the bottom).
Road signs in India
Road signs in Indonesia
Warning signs for a camel are common in the
Arabian Peninsula region.
Road signs in Iran
Road signs in Iran mainly follow the Vienna Convention. Signs are in
Persian and English.
Road signs in Israel
Road signs in Israel mainly follow the Vienna Convention, but have
Road signs in Japan
Japanese stop sign with the word Tomare (止まれ), meaning Stop
Road signs in
Japan are either controlled by local police authorities
Road Traffic Law (道路交通法, Dōro Kōtsūhō) or by other
road-controlling entities including Ministry of Land, Infrastructure,
Transport and Tourism, local municipalities, NEXCO (companies
controlling expressways), under
Road Law (道路法, Dōrohō). Most
of the design of the road signs in
Japan are similar to the signs on
the Vienna Convention, except for some significant variances, such as
stop sign with a red downward triangle. The main signs are categorized
into four meaning types:
Guidance (white characters on blue in general – on green in
Warning (black characters and symbols on yellow diamond),
Regulation (red or blue circle, depending on prohibition or
And instruction (mostly white characters or symbols on blue square).
Road signs in South Korea
Road signs in Kuwait
Traffic sign demonstrating direction to
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Road signs in Pakistan
Philippines winding road ahead sign
Route marker sign for Asian Highway 26, as seen on EDSA and the
Road signs in the
Philippines are standardized in the
Road Signs and
Pavement Markings Manual, published by the Department of Public Works
and Highways. Philippine road signage practice closely follow those
used in Europe, but with local adaptations and some minor influences
from the US MUTCD and Australian road signs. However, some road signs
may differ by locale, and mostly diverge from the national standard.
For example, the
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has
used pink and light blue in its signage for which it has been heavily
Road signs in the
Philippines are classified as:
Traffic instruction signs
Regulatory road signs – other than the stop and give way signs –
are generally circular, with (for prohibitions) a black symbol on a
white background within a red border, or (for mandatory instructions)
a white symbol on a blue background. In some cases circular regulatory
signs are placed on white rectangular panels together with text
supplementing their meanings.
Most warning signs display a black symbol on a white background within
a red-bordered equilateral triangle. Since 2012, however, a more
visibly distinctive design (taken from that used for school signs in
the US) has been adopted for pedestrian-related signs: these consist
of a fluorescent yellow-green pentagon with black border and symbol.
Additional panels may be placed below signs to supplement their
Guide signs are divided into directional signs, service area signs,
route markers, and tourist-related signs, with influence from both
American and Australian practice. Directional signs use a green
background with white letters and arrows. Service area signs use a
blue background with white letters, arrows, and symbols.
Tourist-related signs use a brown background with white letters,
arrows, and symbols. The route marker sign, excluding the AH26 route
marker, is based on the Australian National Route marker, but reserved
for future use.
Signs on expressways mostly take elements from Australian
motorway/freeway signs. Exit signs, wrong way signs and start/end of
expressway signs are very similar to Australian freeway signage.
Traffic instruction signs are textual signs used to supplement warning
and regulatory signs.
Road signs in
Saudi Arabia frequently show their text both in Arabic
Road signs also indicate which part of the road is for
Muslims, and which part is for non-Muslims, for instance near
Road signs in Singapore
Singapore's traffic signs closely follow British road sign
conventions, although the government has introduced some changes to
Road signs in Sri Lanka
Road signs in
Sri Lanka are standardized road signs closely follow
those used in
Europe with certain distinctions, and a number of
changes have introduced road signs that suit as per local road and
system. Sri Lankan government announced by a gazette that aimed to get
a face-lift and introduction of over 100 new road traffic signs.
Road signs in Thailand
United Arab Emirates
Road signs in United Arab Emirates
The first road signs established in Czechoslovakia on 1 November 1935:
six blue-white danger warning signs. They were later supplanted with
Keep right, Portugal.
Road sign in Beussent,
France - entrance to built up area with an
implied 50 km/h speed limit.
Since the signing of the 1931 Geneva Convention concerning the
Road Signals by a number of countries that the
standardization of the traffic signs started in Europe. The 1931
Convention rules were developed in the 1949 Geneva Protocol on Road
Signs and Signals.
In 1968, the European countries signed the Vienna Convention on Road
Traffic treaty, with the aim of standardizing traffic regulations in
participating countries in order to facilitate international road
traffic and to increase road safety. Part of the treaty was the Vienna
Road Signs and Signals, which defined the traffic signs
and signals. As a result, in Western
Europe the traffic signs are well
standardized, although there are still some country-specific
exceptions, mostly dating from the pre-1968 era.
The principle of the European traffic sign standard is that certain
shapes and colours are to be used with consistent meanings:
Triangular signs (black symbols on a white or yellow background) warn
of dangers. The Vienna Convention additionally allows an alternative
shape for such signs, namely a right-angled diamond – although in
Europe this shape is regularly used only in the Republic of Ireland.
Regulatory signs are round: those indicating a prohibition or limit
are black on white (or yellow) with a red border; those giving a
mandatory order are white on blue.
Informational and various other secondary signs are of rectangular
The animals which may be depicted on warning signs include cattle,
deer, ducks, elk, frogs, horses, sheep, monkeys (in Gibraltar), and
polar bears (on Svalbard). The Convention allows any animal image to
Directional signs ("guide signs" in American parlance) have not been
harmonized under the Convention, at least not on ordinary roads. As a
result, there are substantial differences in directional signage
throughout Europe. Differences apply to the choice of typeface, arrows
and, most notably, colours. The convention does, however, specify that
the type of directional signage used should, for each country,
distinguish limited-access roads ("motorways") from ordinary,
Directional signage on motorways uses:
white-on-green in, for example, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland,
Greece, Italy, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia,
Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey
white-on-blue in, for example, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, France,
Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland,
Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Differences are greater for non-motorways:
White-on-blue in Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, the Czech Republic,
Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland,
Turkey, and the
Netherlands (in this case the same as on motorways).
White-on-green in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Poland,
Portugal (only on the few primary roads that still have
not been transformed in motorways),
Black-on-yellow in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Luxembourg,
Norway, Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia.
Denmark (though white-on-blue on motorway exits and
all overhead gantries)
Black-on-white in Spain.
The black-on-white signposting of secondary roads distinguishes them
from primary roads in Finland, France, Portugal, the Republic of
Ireland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In Germany, Italy,
Sweden black-on-white indicates urban-only roads or urban
The signposting of road numbers also differs greatly, except that
European route numbers, if displayed, are always indicated using white
characters on a green rectangle. European route numbers are, however,
not signed at all in the United Kingdom.
The Convention recommends that certain signs – such as "STOP",
"ZONE", etc. – be in English; however, use of the local language is
also permitted. If a language uses non-Latin characters, a
Latin-script transliteration of the names of cities and other
important places should also be given.
Road signs in the Republic of
Ireland are bilingual, using Irish and English.
Wales similarly uses
bilingual Welsh–English signs, while some parts of
bilingual Scottish Gaelic–English signs.
Finland also uses bilingual
signs, in Finnish and Swedish. Signs in
Belgium are in French, Dutch,
or German depending on the region. In the Brussels Capital Region,
road signs are in both French and Dutch. Signs in
Switzerland are in
French, German, Italian, or Romansh depending on the canton.
European countries – with the notable exception of the United
Kingdom, where distances and lengths are indicated in miles, yards,
feet, and inches, and speed limits are expressed in miles per hour –
use the metric system on road signs.
For countries driving on the left, the convention stipulates that the
traffic signs should be mirror images of those used in countries
driving on the right. This practice, however, is not systematically
followed in the four European countries driving on the left, Cyprus,
Malta, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The convention
permits the use of two background colours for danger and prohibition
signs: white or yellow. Most countries use white, with a few – such
as Finland, Iceland, Poland, and
Sweden – opting for yellow as this
tends to improve the winter-time visibility of signs in areas where
snow is prevalent. In some countries, such as France, white is the
normal background colour for such signs, but yellow is used for
temporary signage (as, for example, at road works).
European traffic signs have been designed with the principles of
heraldry in mind; i.e., the sign must be clear and
able to be resolved at a glance. Most traffic signs conform to
heraldic tincture rules, and use symbols rather than written texts for
better semiotic clarity.
Croatian road signs follow the Vienna convention (
SFR Yugoslavia was
the original signatory for Croatia, which is now a contracting party
itself). The most common signs are:
Yellow and black signs for direction.
Blue and white signs for information.
White-on-green signs are used on the highways.
In the first years following Croatia's independence, its traffic signs
were the same as in the rest of the former Yugoslavia. In the early
2000s, replacement of the yellow background of warning signs began,
and new signs now use a white background.
The signage typeface is SNV, as with the other countries of the former
Road signs in Iceland
Road signs in
Iceland mainly follow the Vienna Convention, but use a
variant of the colour scheme and minor design changes similar to the
signs in Sweden.
Advance directional sign in for a roundabout in Ireland. The green
background indicates that this sign is on a national road, with the
blue patches left and right indicating a motorway (with symbol) and
the white patches indicating a regional road or local road.
Irish warning sign
Road signs in the Republic of Ireland
Until the partition of
Ireland in 1922 and the independence of the
Irish Free State
Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland), British standards
applied across the island. In 1926 road sign standards similar to
those used in the UK at the time were adopted. Law requires that
the signs be written in both Irish and English.
In 1956, road signs in the Republic were changed from the UK standard
with the adoption of US-style "diamond" signs for many road hazard
warnings (junctions, bends, railway crossings, traffic lights).
Some domestic signs were also invented, such as the keep-left sign (a
black curved arrow pointing to the upper-left, although some are
similar to the European "white arrow on blue disk" signs), while some
other signs are not widely adopted outside Ireland, such as the
no-entry sign (a black arrow pointing ahead in a white circle with a
red slashed circumference).
Directional signage is similar to current
United Kingdom standards.
The same colours are used for directional signs in
Ireland as in the
UK, and the UK Transport and
Motorway fonts are used. Unlike
Scotland, where Welsh and Gaelic place-names use the upright Transport
face, Irish place-names are rendered in an italic face.
In January 2005
Ireland adopted metric speed limits. Around 35,000
existing signs were replaced and a further 23,000 new signs erected
bearing the speed limit in kilometres per hour. To avoid confusion
with the old signs, each speed limit sign now has "km/h" beneath the
numerals. Also, since the adoption of signs based on the Warboys
Committee standard in 1977, Irish directional signs have used the
metric system; however, unlike with the later speed limit changeover,
there was no effort made to change the existing signage, and as of
2007[update] many finger posts still remain on rural roads with
distances in miles, although the numbers continue to decline as roads
In late 2007
Ireland began an extensive programme of sign and post
replacement. Good examples are the M1 (Dublin–Dundalk) and the M50
(Dublin). While being mostly the same as the old signs, it is welcome
as a lot of the signs were damaged/stained. About half of the new
posts are now two medium posts with crosshatched metal posts
in-between instead of one large pole to minimise the damage in case of
Road signs in
Latvia largely adhere to Vienna Convention guidelines.
In detailed design they closely resemble the signs used in Germany.
Road signs in the Netherlands
Road signs in the
Netherlands follow the Vienna Convention.
Directional signs (which have not been harmonized under the
Convention) always use blue as the background colour. The destinations
on the sign are printed in white. If the destination is not a town
(but an area within town or some other kind of attraction), that
destination will be printed in black on a separate white background
within the otherwise blue sign.
Netherlands always signposts European road numbers where
applicable (i.e., on the advance directional signs, the interchange
direction signs and on the reassurance signs). Dutch national road
numbers are placed on a rectangle, with motorways being signposted in
white on a red rectangle (as an Axx) and primary roads in black on a
yellow rectangle (as Nxx). When a motorway changes to a primary road,
its number remains the same, but the A is replaced by the N. So at a
certain point the A2 becomes N2, and when it changes to a motorway
again, it becomes A2 again.
Signs intended for bike-riders always go on white signs with red or
The Dutch typeface, known as ANWB-Ee, is based on the US typeface. A
new font, named ANWB-Uu (also known as Redesign), has been developed
in 1997 and appears on many recent Dutch signs. On the motorways
however the typeface remains the ANWB-Ee or a similar typeface. The
language of the signs is typically Dutch, even though bilingual signs
may be used, when the information is relevant for tourists.
Road signs in Norway
Upper left and right and middle right are standard directional signs.
Lower left is for a commercial facility, and lower right is for a
Norway mostly follow the Vienna Convention, except the polar
bear warning sign, which is a white bear on a black background and a
red border. These are the directional signs:
Signs for motorways are blue with white text
Those for regular roads to towns and cities are yellow with black
Signs for industrial areas, commercial facilities etc. are white with
Signs for tourist attractions, national parks, museums etc. are brown
with white lettering
The signs for road numbering are rectangular, and have this colour
European routes (E6, E18, etc.) are green with white lettering
National routes are also green with white lettering
Province owned roads are white with black lettering
Municipality owned roads have the name of the road, instead of a
number, and are white with black lettering
Norway adopted German standard traffic signage since 1930s.
Swedish elk warning sign
Road signs in Sweden
The road signs in
Sweden mostly follow the Vienna Convention with a
few adaptations, however, allowed within the convention:
The background of warning signs is yellow
Warning signs for elk and reindeer
The background of direction signs is blue with white text
The background of motorway direction signs is green with white text
When applicable, the language is Swedish in Sweden.
The signage typeface
Tratex is used exclusively in
Sweden and is
available as freeware.
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Swiss signpost in table format
Road signs in
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Switzerland is not a member of the EU, the road signs
mostly follow the Vienna Convention with a few adaptations and
Road signs are categorized as follows:
Prohibition signs (Regulatory)
Mandatory instruction signs (Regulatory)
Conducting indication signs
Routing indication signs
Distances and other measurements are displayed in metric units.
ASTRA-Frutiger is the typeface used to replace SNV,
which is still used in several European countries.
Major exceptions from the norm are:
Signs use one of the four national languages corresponding to the
Destinations are spelled according their local spelling, e.g. Genève
for Geneva, also in German or Italian Switzerland.
Motor-/expressway signs are white text on green background.
Main road/route signs are white text on blue background.
Minor road/route signs are black text on white background.
Detour route signs are black text on orange background.
Swiss sign no. 4.05 Mountain postal road
Bicycle and mountain bike routes, and routes for vehicle-like
transport means are white text on falu red background.
Commercial direction signs are black text on grey background with a
Mandatory generally maximum speed limit of 50 km/h within urban
settings is valid with entry of a village or town (sign no. 4.27 or
4.29) even without producing the corresponding sign (sign no. 2.30.1).
Mountain postal road sign (sign no. 4.05 and 4.06) indicating priority
to public transport on (mountain) roads.
There are more priority signs than usual (often related to the
Priority to the right
Priority to the right rule).
Road rules of Switzerland.
One of the more unusual UK road signs, at the Magic Roundabout in
Bilingual road sign in Wales
Road signs in the United Kingdom
Traffic signing in the UK conforms broadly to European norms, though a
number of signs are unique to Britain and direction signs omit
European route numbers. The current sign system, introduced on 1
January 1965, was developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the
Anderson Committee, which established the motorway signing system, and
by the Worboys Committee, which reformed signing for existing
all-purpose roads. (For illustrations of most British road signs, see
'Know your traffic signs' on the
The UK remains the only
European Union member nation and the only
Commonwealth country to use non-metric (Imperial) measurements for
distance and speed, although "authorised weight" signs have been in
metric tonnes since 1981 and there is currently a dual-unit (metric
first) option for height and width restriction signage, intended for
use on safety grounds. On motorways kilometre signs are visible at
intervals of 500 m indicating the distance from the start of the
motorway. (See Driver location sign).
Three colour schemes exist for direction signs:
On motorways they are blue with white lettering
On primary routes they are green with white lettering and yellow route
A non-primary route has white signs with black lettering
A fourth colour scheme, black on yellow, is seen on temporary signs,
for example marking a diversionary route avoiding a road closure.
Two typefaces are specified for British road signs. Transport "Medium"
or Transport "Heavy" are used for all text on fixed permanent signs
and most temporary signage, depending on the colour of the sign and
associated text colour; dark text on a white background is normally
set in "Heavy" so that it stands out better. However route numbers on
motorway signs use a taller limited character set typeface called
Signs are generally bilingual in all parts of
Wales (English/Welsh or
Welsh/English), and similar signs are beginning to be seen in parts of
Scottish Highlands (English/Scottish Gaelic).
All signs and their associated regulations can be found in the Traffic
Signs Regulations and General Directions, as updated by the TSRGD
2008, TSRGD 2011 and TSRGD 2016 and complemented by the various
chapters of the "Traffic Signs Manual".
Northern America and Oceania
Road signs in the United States
One of Catskill Park's distinctive brown town signs with yellow text,
showing the hamlet of Pine Hill
The Northern American, Australian and
New Zealand colors normally have
red with white for stop signs, yield, and forbidden actions (such as
green with white letters for informational signs, such as directions,
distances, and places
brown with white letters for signs to parks, historic sites, ski
areas, forests, and campgrounds
blue with white symbols (or business logos) for rest areas, food,
gasoline, hospitals, lodging, and other services
white with black (or red) letters for regulatory signs, such as speed
limits (or parking)
yellow with black letters and symbols for warning signs, such as
curves and school zones
orange with black letters for temporary traffic control zones and
detours associated with road construction
purple for "lanes restricted to use only by vehicles with registered
electronic toll collection (ETC) accounts", such as EZPass.
black with white letters or arrows for lane use.
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices prescribes four other
fluorescent yellow-green with black symbols for school zone, school
bus stop, pedestrian, playground, and bicycle warning signs
fluorescent pink with black letters and symbols for incident
coral and light blue, which are unassigned but reserved for potential
Regulatory signs are also sometimes seen with white letters on red or
black signs. In Quebec, blue is often used for public services such as
rest areas; many black-on-yellow signs are red-on-white instead.
US states and Canadian provinces now use fluorescent orange for
Highway symbols and markers
Rural highway sign, Saskatchewan.
Every state and province has different markers for its own highways,
but use standard ones for all federal highways. Many special highways
– such as the Queen Elizabeth Way, Trans-
Canada Highway, and various
auto trails in the U.S. – have used unique signs. Counties in the US
sometimes use a pentagonal blue sign with yellow letters for numbered
county roads, though the use is inconsistent even within states.
Distances on traffic signs generally follow the measurement system in
use locally: that is to say, the metric system in all countries of the
world except Burma, Liberia, the United Kingdom, and the United States
– although the metric system is used in the UK for all purposes
other than the display of road distances and the defining of speed
limits, and in the US the Federal Department of Transportation has
developed (very rarely used) metric standards for all signs.
Multilingual road signs in Mistissini,
Quebec in Cree, English and
Where signs use a language, the recognized language/s of the area is
normally used. Signs in most of the US, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand are in English.
Quebec uses French, while
New Brunswick and
the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain bridges, in Montreal (as well as
some parts in the West Island), use both English and French, and a
number of other provinces and states, such as Ontario, Manitoba, and
Vermont use bilingual French–English signs in certain localities.
Puerto Rico (a US territory) and Mexico use Spanish. Within a few
miles of the US–Mexico border, road signs are often in English and
Spanish in places like San Diego, Yuma, and El Paso. Indigenous
Nahuatl as well as some Mayan languages, have been
used as well.
The typefaces predominantly used on signs in the US and
Canada are the
FHWA alphabet series (Series B through Series F and Series E
Modified). Details of letter shape and spacing for these alphabet
series are given in "Standard Alphabets for Traffic Control Devices",
first published by the
Bureau of Public Roads
Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) in 1945 and
subsequently updated by the
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It
is now part of Standard Highway Signs (SHS), the companion volume to
the MUTCD which gives full design details for signfaces.
Initially, all of the alphabet series consisted of uppercase letters
and digits only, although lowercase extensions were provided for each
alphabet series in a 2002 revision of SHS. Series B through Series F
evolved from identically named alphabet series which were introduced
Straight-stroke letters in the 1927 series were substantially similar
to their modern equivalents, but unrounded glyphs were used for
letters such as B, C, D, etc., to permit more uniform fabrication of
signs by illiterate painters. Various state highway departments and
the federal BPR experimented with rounded versions of these letters in
the following two decades.
The modern, rounded alphabet series were finally standardized in 1945
after rounded versions of some letters (with widths loosely
appropriate for Series C or D) were specified as an option in the 1935
MUTCD and draft versions of the new typefaces had been used in 1942
for guide signs on the newly constructed
Pentagon road network.
The mixed-case alphabet now called Series E Modified, which is the
standard for destination legend on freeway guide signs, originally
existed in two parts: an all-uppercase Series E Modified, which was
essentially similar to Series E, except for a larger stroke width, and
a lowercase-only alphabet. Both parts were developed by the California
Division of Highways (now Caltrans) for use on freeways in
Initially, the Division used all-uppercase Series E Modified for
button-reflectorized letters on ground-mounted signs and mixed-case
legend (lowercase letters with Series D capitals) for externally
illuminated overhead guide signs. Several Eastern turnpike authorities
blended all-uppercase Series E Modified with the lowercase alphabet
for destination legends on their guide signs.
Eventually, this combination was accepted for destination legend in
the first manual for signing Interstate highways, which was published
in 1958 by the American Association of State Highway Officials and
adopted as the national standard by the BPR.
Uses of non-FHWA typefaces
Some traffic signs, such as the left-turn prohibition sign hanging
from this gantry, are lit for better visibility, particularly at night
or in inclement weather.
The US National
Park Service uses NPS Rawlinson Roadway, a serif
typeface, for guide signage; it typically appears on a brown
background. Rawlinson has replaced Clarendon as the official NPS
typeface, but some states still use Clarendon for recreational
Georgia, in the past, used uppercase Series D with a custom lowercase
alphabet on its freeway guide signs; the most distinctive feature of
this typeface is the lack of a dot on lowercase i and j. More
recent installations appear to include the dots.
The Clearview typeface, developed by US researchers to provide
improved legibility, is permitted for light legend on dark backgrounds
under FHWA interim approval. Clearview has seen widespread use by
state departments of transportation in Arkansas, Arizona,
Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas,
and Virginia. The
Kansas Turnpike Authority
Kansas Turnpike Authority has also introduced
Clearview typeface to some of its newer guide signs along the Kansas
Turnpike, but the state of
Kansas continues to use the FHWA typefaces
for signage on its non-tolled Interstates and freeways.
In Canada, the Ministry of Transportation for the Province of British
Columbia specifies Clearview for use on its highway guide signs,
and its usage has shown up in
Ontario on the
Don Valley Parkway
Don Valley Parkway and
Gardiner Expressway in
Toronto and on new 400-series highway
installations in Hamilton, Halton and Niagara, as well as street signs
in various parts of the province. The font is also being used on newer
signs in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec.
A new Clearview typeface sign beside an old FHWA typeface, Quebec
Moose crossing warning with kill-counter,
Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.
Prior to widespread human settlement, this area was part of the Kenai
It is common for local governments, airport authorities, and
contractors to fabricate traffic signs using typefaces other than the
FHWA series; Helvetica, Futura and
Arial are common choices.
Road signs in New Zealand
New Zealand road signs are generally influenced both by American and
Warning signs are diamond-shaped with a yellow background for
permanent warnings, and an orange background for temporary warnings.
They are somewhat more pictorial than their American counterparts.
This is also true for Canadian signage.
Regulatory signs also follow European practice, with a white circle
with a red border indicating prohibitive actions, and a blue circle
indicating mandatory actions.
White rectangular signs with a red
border indicate lane usage directions. Information and direction signs
are rectangular, with a green background indicating a state highway, a
blue background for all other roads and all services (except in some,
where directional signage is white), and a brown background for
Before 1987, most road signs had black backgrounds – diamonds
indicated warnings, and rectangles indicated regulatory actions (with
the exception of the Give Way sign (an inverted trapezium), and Stop
sign and speed limit signs (which were the same as today)).
Information signs were yellow, and direction signage was green on
motorways and black everywhere else.
Central America and the Caribbean
Speed bump sign in Belize.
Road signs in Caribbean, Central America, and
South America vary from
country to country. For the most part, conventions in signage tend to
resemble United States signage conventions more so than European and
Asian conventions. For example, warning signs are typically
diamond-shaped and yellow rather than triangular and white. Some
variations include the "Parking" and "No Parking" signs, which contain
either a letter E or P, depending on which word is used locally for
"Parking" (Spanish estacionamiento or parqueo, Portuguese
estacionamento), as well as the Stop sign, which usually reads "Pare"
or "Alto". Notable exceptions include speed limit signs, which follow
the European conventions, and the "No Entry" sign, often replaced with
a crossed upwards arrow.
Traffic signs in Colombia are classified into three categories:
Warning signs are very similar to warning signs in United States. They
are yellow diamond-shaped with a black symbol (the yellow colour is
changed to an orange colour in areas under construction). In certain
cases, the yellow colour is shifted to fluorescent yellow (in the
School area sign and Chevron sign).
Mandatory signs are similar to European signs. They are circular with
a red border, a white background and a black symbol.
Stop sign and
Yield sign are as European, except the word "Stop" is changed for
"Pare" and the
Yield sign has no letters, it is a red triangle with
Information signs have many shapes and colours. Principally they are
blue with white symbols and in many cases these signs have an
information letter below the symbol.
Road signs in Suriname are particularly modelled on the Dutch road
signs since Suriname is a former Dutch colony, although traffic drives
on the left unlike in the Netherlands.
Automatic traffic sign recognition
Cars are beginning to feature cameras with automatic traffic sign
recognition, beginning with the Opel Insignia. It mainly recognizes
speed limits and no-overtaking areas.
Comparison of European traffic signs
Comparison of MUTCD-Influenced Traffic Signs
List of public signage typefaces
Off-Network Tactical Diversion Route
Road surface marking
Road marking machine
Rules of the road
Street sign theft
Traffic sign design
Road sign in Greece: no vehicles carrying explosives or flammable
Sign north of Nome, Alaska, providing warning of the remote,
unpopulated area beyond
Traffic sign in Jordan
"Know AIDS - No AIDs". Nubra Valley, Ladakh, India
"After Whiskey Driving Risky". Lahaul, India
"If Married Divorce Speed". Ladakh, India
Pedestrian crossing in Finland
Cycleway sign (white) in Finland
Italian road sign warning of wild animals. Germany, Latvia, Spain,
Turkey, among other countries, use a very similar sign.
Road sign in southern
Germany (note the Alps in the
^ Traffic Signs Manual Introduction 1982
^ "MMDA defends 'pink' as traffic enforcement standard". GMA News
^ "Probe looms over MMDA's pink traffic signs". GMA News Online.
^ Saudi highway signs near Makkah (archived)
^ "Norma 8.1-I.C." (PDF). Ministerio de Fomento, Gobierno de España.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-09.
^ S.I. No. 55/1926:
Road Signs and Traffic Signals Regulations, 1926
Archived 2006-02-26 at the Wayback Machine. – Irish Statute Book
^ S.I. No. 284/1956: Traffic Signs Regulations, 1956 - Irish Statute
^ Teckensnitt på vägmärken / Vägverket Archived 2006-04-20 at the
^ rel (20 January 2003). "«Frutiger» für die Strasse".
German). Zurich, Switzerland. Retrieved 2017-06-28.
Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002".
opsi.gov.uk. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
^ "The Evolution of MUTCD". dot.gov.
^ a b Section 1A.12 Color Code, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
^ "Signs, signals and road markings" (PDF). icbc.com. Archived from
the original (PDF) on 2013-10-22.
^ Section 6F.02 General Characteristics of Signs [Temporary Traffic
Control], Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
^ "Image". gribblenation.com. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
^ "Photo". gribblenation.com. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
^ Holstege, Sean (11 September 2013). "Seeing double on I-17? It's a
sign of safer times". The
Arizona Republic. Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Retrieved 3 December 2014.
Illinois Department of Transportation
^ 2006 Internet Templates
^ Colombia traffic signs manual Archived 2008-06-10 at the Wayback
Opel Insignia to feature traffic sign recognition system".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Look up signpost in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for
Pakistani Traffic Rules and
Indian Traffic Rules and Signals
Road User's Code: The Language of the
Road by the Transport
Department of the Government of the
Hong Kong SAR
Signs and markings British traffic signs from the Highway Code
Danish traffic signs
securite-routiere.gouv.fr (in French)
Know Your Traffic Signs - Department for Transport (UK)
German traffic signs and signals
Norma 8.,1-IC Style manual for road signs in
Spain (in Spanish)
Quebec traffic control devices library - Extensive list
of all road signs and signals from the
Quebec Transport Ministry (in
English) (in French)
Road Signs in Ontario, from the
Ontario Ministry of Transportation.
ICBC – Signs, signals and road markings from ICBC China
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Highway Administration publications:
Part 2: Signs from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Standard Highway Signs and Markings
Manual of Traffic Signs – private website based on the MUTCD
Ensuring That Traffic Signs Are Visible at Night: Federal Regulations
Congressional Research Service
Traffic Signs Evolution Since 1925 to Present
Public domain fonts used on road signs
Traffic signs in Russian Federation
A collection of street signs and traffic lights
Photos of directional signage on motorways
Traffic signs in Croatia
Prohibitory traffic sign
Special regulation sign
Dead End sign
Speed limit (by country)
Advisory speed limit
Direction, position, or indication sign
Driver location signs
Priority to the right
Comparison of European road signs
Comparison of MUTCD-influenced traffic signs
Comparison of traffic signs in English-speaking countries
United Arab Emirates
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Traffic-light signalling and operation
Traffic light control and coordination
Alfabeto Normale (IT)
Arial Bold (MO)
Caractères (FR / MC)
Clearview (US / CA / ID / PH / LK)
DIN 1451 (DE / SADC / VN)
Enigmatic (JP / KR)
Highway Gothic (Global)
Bitstream Vera Sans
Bitstream Vera Sans (TW)
GOST 10807-78 (USSR)
GOST R 52290-2004 (RU)
LLM Lettering (MY)
NPS Rawlinson Roadway
NPS Rawlinson Roadway (US)
Transport (HK / IE / UK)
Geneva Convention on
Vienna Convention on
Vienna Convention on
Road Signs and Signals
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (US)
Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (UK)