The Highway Code – Do you Know the Signs?

Knowing what road signs mean is a vital part of being a driver, no matter how rare, you never know when you’ll come across one. It’s always a good idea to keep your road sign knowledge up to date so that you can make quick and safe decisions on the road.

A sign as common as the ‘national speed limit applies’ sign can be confusing as it holds a different meaning depending on the surroundings. A white circular sign with a black diagonal line through it lets the driver know that the national speed limit now supersedes any previous limit signs. However, this particular sign carries 3 different speed limits:

  • Dual carriageway or motorway:  70 miles per hour for cars and vans or 60 miles per hour if you’re towing something.
  • Single carriageway: cars and vans must not exceed 60 miles per hour and vehicles towing must stick to 50 miles per hour
  • Built up area: roads where streetlamps are present closer than 200 yards apart carry a 30 miles per hour speed limit for all vehicles.


There are more obscure road signs out there where the meaning may not automatically be obvious. The ‘no motor vehicles’ sign can sometimes be mistaken for only motorbikes and cars allowed when in fact it means the complete opposite. These signs are usually placed where only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed.
This ‘T-junction’ sign is one of the most uncommon signs which isn’t very self-explanatory. The sign shows a junction ahead, however, this sign also shows priority for those coming from the left. This sign shouldn’t be confused with a ‘no through road’ sign and it can be particularly useful when driving at night, indicating a busy junction ahead.
A slightly more common but sometimes confusing is the ‘no overtaking’ sign. These tend to be placed on narrow roads or those where the risk would be too high to overtake. This sign can also indicate that there could be many cars pulling out onto the road from side streets or driveways, increasing the risk of head-on collisions.
‘No vehicles except bicycles being pushed’, this sign is fairly clear in the no vehicles department, however, most people seeing this for the first time would not realise that a bicycle can be pushed through. Slightly confusing, maybe an additional image is needed for the sign?
Most drivers pass this sign quite often but may not know its exact meaning. ‘Slippery road’ signs are located in a number of different situations, often in areas where ice, mud and water are frequent. The sign can also be used for temporary issues such as incidents where something has been spilt on the road.
The ‘risk of grounding’ can be found when there are speed bumps in the road or a small hump-backed bridge where long or low vehicles could be a risk of hitting the ground. The sign can also be placed near a railway crossing.
One of the most puzzling signs that isn’t very easy to decipher just by looking at the image and isn’t used too often. ‘Vehicles may pass either side to reach the same destination’. Sometimes it has been used in the incorrect circumstance, where the driver must make a choice and chose a lane depending on their destination.

It must be noted, that although there are hundreds of different signs, there are three categories:

  • Circular road signs: these signs give orders that must be followed to remain within the law.
  • Triangular road signs: these signs are a warning, designed to warn drivers about hazards or road layouts ahead.
  • Rectangular road signs: these signs inform drivers, from directions to information and indications of bus lanes or congestion charges.