Shapes and Colors of Traffic Signs

Traffic signs

Why You Should Learn Shapes and Colors of Traffic Signs

Almost all driver’s manuals or handbooks have information about the shapes and colors of traffic signs. It isn’t always obvious why you need to learn this. But being able to identify traffic signs from a distance by just the shape or color coding, can help you a lot.

Examples of Colors

If you are driving at high speed on a highway and are looking for a rest area, a blue sign in the distance should catch your attention. Whereas a green sign is not what you are looking for.

If you see orange signs from a distance, you will know that there is a work zone ahead. Avoid distractions and be alert. Traffic is likely to slow down.

Examples of Shapes

If you are on a two-way two-lane highway and plan to pass another vehicle, a pennant-shaped sign on the left side will warn you of a no-passing zone. In most situations you will see this sign long before you can read the “Do Not Pass” sign on the right side or notice the pavement markings.

And what if signs are covered with snow or ice? You can easily identify railroad crossing sign, stop signs, yield signs and school zone warning signs by just their shape.

These are just a few examples of when knowing the coding of traffic signs can come in handy.



DMV Written Test Questions

Knowing the coding of traffic signs is also important for your DMV knowledge test. Expect at least on question about shapes and colors to appear on your permit practice test and on your final written DMV test.

The following practice questions are based on real DMV questions from different states:

Question 1: The rectangular shape is used for:

  •   A. Stop signs.
  •   B. Railroad crossing signs.
  •   C. School crossing signs.
  •   D. Speed limit sign.

ANSWER: D. Regulatory traffic signs, like speed limit signs, are rectangular.


Question 2: A red and white triangular sign at an intersection means:

  •   A. Always come to a full stop at the sign.
  •   B. Slow down and be prepared to stop, if necessary.
  •   C. Expect a traffic light at the intersection.
  •   D. You cannot turn at this intersection.

ANSWER: B. Three-sided red yield signs mean you must slow down and be ready to stop to let any vehicle, bicyclist, or pedestrian pass before you proceed.


Question 3: A diamond-shaped sign is a:

  •   A. School crossing sign.
  •   B. Railroad crossing sign.
  •   C. Hazard warning sign.
  •   D. Yield sign.

ANSWER: C. Diamond-shaped traffic signs warn you of hazards and specific road conditions ahead.


Question 4: A railroad crossing warning sign has the following shape and color:

  •   A. Three-sided and yellow.
  •   B. Diamond shaped and orange.
  •   C. Round and yellow.
  •   D. Square and white.

ANSWER: C. Circular (round) traffic signs mean there is a railroad crossing ahead.


Question 5: What are the colors of a sign showing the distance to a highway exit?

  •   A. Green with white letters.
  •   B. Black with white letters.
  •   C. Red with black letters.
  •   D. Yellow with black letters.

ANSWER: A. Destination and distance signs are green with white lettering.



Question 6: What is the background color of warning signs that indicate possible road hazards ahead?

  •   A. Yellow.
  •   B. Green.
  •   C. Red.
  •   D. Blue.

ANSWER: A. Yellow is used as a general warning of hazards and advisory of unexpected roadway conditions.


Question 7: When you see an orange traffic sign from a distance, what should you expect ahead?

  •   A. A school zone.
  •   B. A rest area.
  •   C. A work zone.
  •   D. A highway exit.

ANSWER: C. Orange is used as a background color for construction and maintenance warning signs. They alert you to possible dangers ahead due to a work zone.


Question 8: What shape is a school crossing sign?

  •   A. Four-sided.
  •   B. Five-sided.
  •   C. Eight-sided.
  •   D. Round.

ANSWER: B. Five-sided signs mean you are near a school. Stop if children are in a crosswalk.


Question 9: You see a traffic sign with a pennant shape from a distance. What should you expect ahead?

  •   A. School zone.
  •   B. No-passing zone.
  •   C. Road works.
  •   D. Toll road.

ANSWER: B. This traffic sign will appear on the left side of a two-lane, two-way roadway. It is posted at the beginning of a no-passing zone where no-passing pavement markings are also used.


Question 10: A regulatory sign is normally what shape?

  •   A. Three-sided pennant.
  •   B. Four-sided diamond.
  •   C. Circular.
  •   D. Vertical rectangle.

ANSWER: D. Regulatory signs are normally white rectangles with black letters or symbols. Regulatory signs indicating a prohibition can also be red.


Illustration credit: Xzelenz Media

Learn more: Standard Highway Signs and Markings – Road Symbol Signs

Quizzes: Road Signs and Their Meanings





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