Knowing The UK’s Road Signs

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

Whether you’re about to sit your theory test or you’re a seasoned driver who needs to tighten up on your highway code knowledge, knowing the UK road signs is a key part of driving on British roads.

At first, the thought of having to learn and memorise what every type of UK road sign means can be quite intimidating.

There seems so many – numerous shapes, sizes, positionings, meanings and colours.

However, once you begin to do the initial research as to what each type of sign means, you will begin to appreciate that recognising signs isn’t quite the challenge you thought it may be.

If you do not take the time to learn the UK road signs then you can find yourself in real trouble.

You could disobey rules of the road, such as speed limits, ignore warning signs which subsequently mean you’re driving dangerously and become oblivious to potential hazards or changes in the road.

If you’re heading in to your theory test, you will have no hope of passing without a knowledge of the signs either.

A surprisingly high proportion of even the most experienced of drivers would probably admit to not knowing as much about the signs found on UK roads as they should do.

So, take some time to familiarise yourself with them.

Whether it’s to help you through a test or stay safe on the roads, it’s vital that you do.

What You Will Learn

We’ve kept the guide in our usual format, however, the step-by-step element is going to walk you through the main types of signs you see on the UK roads.

By knowing the differences between certain shapes and colours of signs, it puts you in a much stronger position to know what every sign means that you come across.

This fundamental knowledge means that even if you come across a sign that you have never seen before, you’ll know what it is asking of you purely by recognising the layout.

So, here’s how we’ve structured this guide to knowing your UK road signs:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints and tips
  • Useful information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

Here are the three main types of sign you need to know about on the UK roads.

Circles:

A circular sign is giving you an instruction or an order.

If it has a blue background, then it’s an instruction – such as left turn ahead.

A red circular sign is an order – these are the types of signs that will display speed limits.

You must obey the order.

Triangles:

A triangular sign will always have a red outline or border to them.

These are warning signs, such as slippery road ahead of give way.

Rectangles:

A rectangular sign provides information.

You will see these in many different sizes, but most commonly with directions on (e.g. at junctions).

In addition to the shape element, there are some simple rules to do with the colour of the sign which will also help to identify what the purpose is.

Blue Circles:

A blue circular sign will mostly indicate an instruction that you must follow.

Red Rings Or Circles:

A sign that includes a red ring or circle are telling you something which you must not do.

For example, a 30 in a circular sign with a red border/ring is telling you not to drive above/exceed the speed limit of 30.

Blue Rectangles:

A blue rectangular sign will primarily provide information.

The exception to this is on motorways where these types of signs will be directional signs, for example, indicating destinations accessible via an upcoming junction.

Green Rectangles:

A green rectangle is used for directional signs on primary routes.

So, on a-roads, for example, they will be used to direct to certain destinations, towns or roads.

White Rectangles:

A white rectangular sign is also directional but for non-primary routes.

So, think of a local town or village – you will see these white signs on junctions and roundabouts pointing to certain places.

They can also be used for plates used at the same time as warning or regulatory signs.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

While the rules above are pretty standard for signposts, there are a few signs that go against these rules or perhaps span a couple of different areas.

This is primarily to signal enforcement or to highlight the importance of them.

The main examples of this type of sign, all of which are important to know, are as follows:

Stop:

The stop sign is something you must obey.

It is placed at some junctions and is an order that you must stop the car and check the road is clear prior to proceeding.

This is a red octagon-shaped sign with ‘STOP’ written in white writing.

It also has a white border around the edge.

Give Way:

This sign is frequently seen on UK roads and warns of a junction ahead.

It’s triangular shaped but is upside down – this is so that it can still be recognised if obscured by snow, for example.

The sign is white with a red border.

The words ‘GIVE WAY’ appear either in the centre of the sign or beneath it.

No Stopping:

This sign is a blue circle with a red cross over it and indicates a clearway.

There is no stopping permitted at any time, not even to drop passengers off.

Useful Information

If you’re wanting to further your knowledge of UK road signs, then the Highway Code website is a great place to head.

In addition to an in-depth resource showing the signs you may encounter on UK roads, there is also a test you can take which is perfect for evaluating how much you know and whether you’re ready to take your theory test yet.

Final Thoughts

There are hundreds of variations of signs which can be seen on the UK roads, each one with a different meaning, however, knowing the basics about signs is a great way of putting yourself in a position to understand every single one that you see, even if you’ve not come across it before.

If you’re preparing for a theory test then taking online tests to prepare for yourself and test your on your knowledge of road signs is a great revision exercise.

Further Resources