The ABCs of Pavement Markings and Road Signs

By: Cara Hopkins July 4, 2012
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In addition to mastering the feel and control of a vehicle, beginning drivers must also learn a brand new language - the language of road signs and pavement markings.

For those of us who took our license exam way back in the 20th Century, or who have been driving for at least a year or two, deciphering traffic signs is second nature - but, if you or someone you know is gearing up to take their drivers license test, it is important to master the basic ABCs of road lingo.

A: All Way, One Way, Merge, and Yield

Understanding right of way is especially useful when driving in residential and rural areas, where intersections are uncontrolled, meaning that there is no traffic light and drivers must rely on each driver's knowledge of road rules to determine who has right of way at a four-way stop.

On the other end of the spectrum, when driving in high-traffic areas or on highways, knowing the signage and pavement markings for merging and yielding is crucial.

B: Broken, Solid, Single, and Double Lines

In driving, a line is not just a line. A single, solid line means something different than a single, broken line. And double lines mean something else entirely.

Get to know these markings and you will understand where you are free to pass (or not) as well as when you are in a turn lane, and when you may venture into the center median lane.

C: Color Coding

In addition to what is written or represented visually on a road sign, the color of the sign also has significance. You may be aware that red means "stop" and green means "go," but there is much more to the traffic sign rainbow.

For example, orange is for construction signs, blue indicates motorist services or guidance, and brown indicates public recreation and scenic guidance.

S: Shapes

Finally, the shape of the road sign communicates its intended purpose, whether it is the octagon of a stop sign, the upside-down triangle of a yield sign, or the sideways triangle of a no-passing zone.

Of course, the best way to prepare for your license exam and to learn the road rules is to read your state's driver manual and to take practice tests. Your driver handbook might even offer a specific road signs practice test (but you can always find them online, too).

Then, when you get behind the wheel, all those pavement markings and traffic signals will cease to mystify you.

What was the most difficult marking or sign for you to learn?

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