Photo: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

At Least 25% of Drivers Don’t Know What These Common Road Signs Mean

United States Road Trips
by Morgane Croissant Aug 24, 2022

Whether you’re heading on a road trip or simply commuting to work, you need to know what the road signs mean. And while it might have been a long time since you went to the DMV to take your driver’s license test, forgetting the meanings of common road signs is not a good, or safe, look.

A group of ophthalmologists and optometrists surveyed 1,060 American drivers on their knowledge of road signs and their meanings. Most of these drivers had had their licenses for about 25 years, yet many failed to recognize even the simplest and most common road signs.

Road signs that American drivers have trouble figuring out

While it’s worrisome that 16 percent of those surveyed couldn’t recognize a school zone sign, the fact that 27 percent of them can’t recognize an obvious road work sign or that 35 percent don’t know the sign indicating an upcoming road turn is plain scary.

Here’s a refresher on some of the most common aspects of road signs:

What does the color of a road sign mean?

The color of a road sign is the first indication of its importance. The Department of Transportation lists all road sign colors and the meaning behind them. Here’s the gist of the most important ones you need to know:

  • Red: stop, yield, and prohibited areas
  • Yellow: warning message
  • Orange: temporary signage for warning and guidance in a work zone
  • Pink: temporary signage used for accidents
  • Green: direction and traffic movement
  • Fluorescent yellow and green: school zones and pedestrian crossings
  • White background: rules to follow

What does the shape of road signs mean?

Like the color, the shape of a road sign is significant and indicates the potential danger or rules to follow. Here are the ones you absolutely need to know before getting behind the wheel:

  • Octagon: stop
  • Inverted triangle: yield
  • Diamond: warning
  • Pentagon: school zone
  • Round: railroad crossing
  • Vertical rectangles or square: rules of the road

Discover Matador

Save Bookmark

We use cookies for analytics tracking and advertising from our partners.

For more information read our privacy policy.