The first time you got in a car to drive on a public road, you probably weren’t thinking about traffic signs. It’s likely that putting your feet on the right pedals at the right time was more important to you. Oh, and trying to blot out the sound of your mum moaning about your ‘heavy braking’.
Sometimes you just forget about traffic signs – that set of words and symbols designed to guide us around the UK’s roads. At least until you start preparing for your theory test!
You’re probably reading this and thinking
“Really, what’s the fuss about? I mean, most of them are instantly recognisable, aren’t they? I can just get away with learning the basics and concentrate on the fun stuff, like how to overtake on a dual carriageway.”
Let’s see, shall we?
What does this sign mean?
If you saw this when you were out driving, you might assume that it was giving you the same instruction as this sign:
In which case, you’d drive at or just below 30 miles per hour, depending on the conditions.
In fact, the blue sign means the opposite of the red-and-white sign. It’s telling you to drive at 30 miles per hour as a minimum, and it’s usually shown where slow-moving vehicles would affect the flow of traffic; for example, in tunnels. (Check pages 106–107 of The Highway Code for more information about signs giving orders. Also see page 21 of Know Your Traffic Signs.)
And this one?
Here’s another one for you. Let’s suppose you’re practising driving in snowy conditions and you see this sign as you approach a junction:
What does it mean? Well, you can’t see the instruction on the sign but, if you’ve done your homework, you’ll know there’s only one road sign that’s this shape (octagonal). Then you’ll be able to take the right action , even though the weather is making driving and reading road signs difficult.
Should some helpful person from the council come and scrape away the snow, you’d see the word ‘STOP’ on this sign.
The STOP sign was designed to be read, understood and obeyed even if it’s covered by snow. But if you didn’t know that, you might have just ploughed across the junction.
Not a great thought, is it?
Learn all the signs
I hope this has given you an idea of why it’s essential to know more than just the basics when it comes to traffic signs. Not only will you be a safer driver, but you’ll also be more likely to pass your theory test first time.
Knowing your traffic signs is all part of staying safe on the roads, and the good news is that we’ve got a lot of it covered here on Safe Driving for Life. Take a trip over to our shop and pick up a copy of The Official Highway Code, The Official DVSA Theory Test for Car Drivers and the official edition of Know your Traffic Signs. And of course if you prefer to learn online, then take a look at the Official DVSA Learning Zone.