It can be easy to overlook or neglect road signs while driving, simply because there are so many of them. However, they are in place to keep drivers and pedestrians safe on the road. They also provide valuable information such as directions to locations, possible construction areas, and potential road hazards.

Every sign is designed to fit a specific category depending on its shape, color, and size. Recognizing traffic signs and understanding their meaning will help you to become a better driver and provide a safer environment for everyone else on the road. Let’s review a few tips and tricks to help you identify traffic signs on the road.

Shapes of Road Signs

The shapes of signs are specific to a particular rule or regulation on the road. Knowing what the shape means will help you to identify the road sign while driving.


The only sign on the road that has an octagon shape is the stop sign. You won’t find any other road sign with an octagon shape that doesn’t require you to “stop.” Octagon means stop.


The upside-down triangle means yield. This shape indicates the driver can proceed with caution when no other cars are present. In some cases, a right-side-up triangle means “caution.” Generally, both variations of the sign represent the same thing. Triangle means yield.


The pentagon-shaped sign lets you know that you are entering a school zone. Speeds are usually reduced in these areas for a short distance. Pentagon means slow down because pedestrians are likely present.

Colors of Road Signs

The color of a road sign helps you quickly identify the sign and know what action you must take. Each color is specific to a certain rule of the road. If you know what each color means, then you will be able to identify road signs faster.


A red road sign communicates the warning command to “stop” or “yield” when driving. However, red can also mean “do not enter,” “wrong way,” or “no turn on red.” If you fail to take action when you see a red road sign, you threaten your safety and the safety of others nearby.


Orange road signs alert drivers to be cautious when traveling through an upcoming stretch of road. They tell drivers that they are entering a construction zone or an area where road maintenance is in process. Orange signs are usually temporary and appear only when conditions warrant.


A yellow sign indicates a warning or potential hazard on the road ahead. These signs could mean a no-passing zone, a narrow bridge, a curve in the road, or a merging lane point. Yellow, along with red and orange, is a warm color sign that alerts drivers to road hazards. Recognizing these signs and their meanings, and following the rules of the road, is vital for keeping everyone safe while driving on the road.


The green color is used to give the driver directions to locations. These signs are usually street signs, mile markers, or distances in miles to a particular destination. Green signs are the most common color of road signs you will see while driving.

How to Read Highway Signs

Driving on the highway can be different from driving within city limits. While there may be a few similar signs on the highway, there are many others that are only used for a specific reason.

It can be easy to lose your way while driving on the highway if you don’t know what to look for. The signs on the freeway are designed to help drivers get from point A to point B safely.

Highway Numbering

In the early 1900s, routes throughout the United States were not uniform. The numbering system was unplanned and chaotic. By the mid 1920’s, a national numbering system was created to bring order to the highway system.

Thanks to thorough planning, today’s numbered highway system makes interstate travel much easier for drivers. Here’s how the vast network of roads works.

Highways that flow north-south have odd numbers, while east-west routes get even numbers. The numbers start low in the southwest and increase as they move northeast.

For example, Interstate 5 (I-5) runs along the west coast and includes the southern-most part of California. Interstate 95 (I-95) covers the Atlantic coast and stretches all the way to Maine. Both routes have odd numbers, so we know they run north-south.

For east-west routes, Interstate 10 (I-10) follows the southern U.S. border and links California with Florida.  While Interstate 90 (I-90) leads drivers through many northern states. They are even numbers, so we know they flow eat-west.

Mile Markers

Mile markers are also vital to the highway system. They tell you where you are within the state. They start at the state line either on the western or southern border and go higher as you move east or north on the highway. If you need to get off at Exit 50, and you pass Mile Marker 40, you know you have ten miles to travel to reach your exit.


Did you know that the position of the Exit sign often indicates which lane you need to be in to make the exit? For example, if you need to get on I-37 to travel to Corpus Christi, and you see the EXIT 158A sign positioned in the upper right part of the Guide sign to Corpus Christi, you know you should move to the right-hand lane to exit. If the Exit sign is positioned on the left, you need to move to the left-hand lane to exit.

The Difference in Road Signs from State to State

Road signs may look different when entering or leaving a state, even though they still mean the same thing. It’s the background design of the highway shield that is different. This design allows states to customize their signs.

Some states like Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Nevada use the outline of the state as the background design. While other states, such as Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico use a state symbol or flag as the design. However, most states just use a shape like a circle or a rectangle as the design.

Safe Driving Tips for Reading Road Signs

Road signs are crucial to keeping drivers safe on the road and informed of potential hazards. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while navigating the road ahead.

– Pentagon-shaped signs mean you are entering a school zone so remember to reduce your speed and be on high alert for pedestrians. You will be able to know when you are leaving a school zone by locating the pentagon-shaped sign on the opposite side of the road. Some signs let you know where the school zone ends.

– Octagon-shaped signs always mean to “stop.”Make sure you come to a complete stop and look both ways before proceeding through the intersection.

– When driving long distances, make sure to map out a plan. When you can recognize road signs and understand their meaning, you can have a more enjoyable ride.