Back to Blog

The Power of Wrong Way Signs

October 28, 2019

The “Wrong Way” sign is one of the most instantly recognizable messages perceived by drivers. With its very basic wording, it’s effective at diverting confused drivers from entering a lane of opposing traffic. The sign has certain limitations, but is one of the most effective road signs at controlling traffic.

Wrong Way Sign Variations

Wrong Way signs follow MUTCD guidelines of red regulatory signs with white lettering or red lettering on a white background. Sometimes it’s placed next to a regulatory “Do Not Enter” sign. It’s often installed on a freeway off-ramp to immediately alert drivers they are approaching ongoing traffic. The difference between a regulatory and warning sign is that regulatory signs must be obeyed or the driver can be cited for a ticket.

The “One Way” sign serves a similar purpose of letting drivers know traffic flows only in one direction. They are also regulatory signs that must be obeyed, but are black and white and often accompany an arrow pointing in the direction of permitted traffic.

Collisions Despite Wrong Way Signs

Despite the effectiveness of Wrong Way signs, accidents can still occur due to driver confusion or intoxication. Most head-on collisions happen at night and many times it’s the result of drunk driving. Someone who is intoxicated may not be even concentrating on the road or safety. Alchohol and drugs can also impair vision, especially at night when bright lights look distorted. Elderly drivers who naturally have vision problems can also cause a head-on collision.

Another reason for head-on collisions despite proper signage is when a driver is unfamiliar with an area and is distracted. Talking on a cell phone or looking for certain streets can be a deadly distraction if the driver doesn’t keep his or her eyes on the road ahead. One of the most dangerous situations is when someone is driving on a two-way street but doesn’t notice when it turns into one traffic direction.

The National Transportation Safety Board published a comprehensive report on wrong-way driving in 2012. It found that such collisions usually have higher fatality rates than other types of crashes. Drunk drivers and seniors were found to contribute to a high percentage of these accidents. The main reason for these collisions was entering an exit ramp.

Local and state authorities have taken various countermeasures to reduce these incidents. These strategies include using oversized signs, adding extra Do Not Enter signs on exit ramps, applying red reflective tape on sign posts and attaching multiple signs on the same post. Another countermeasure that doesn’t require electronic technology includes raised reflective pavement markings.

Blinking LED lights can be added to Wrong Way signs for further enhancement. If more technology is needed to reduce fatalities, electronic signs can be placed on freeways that warn drivers when wrong way traffic is reported.


One Way signs are important to place in dangerous places where traffic moves in one direction. Sometimes it takes multiple signs for the driver to notice, especially at night. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location for more information about preventing traffic accidents with regulatory signs.

Product Added

Go to Quote Request Form

Continue Product Search