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Why Symbols are Increasingly Used for Road Signals

July 19, 2018

More and more road signals that help guide traffic use symbols because they are easier for drivers to see and quickly understand from a distance, rather than making out words. Symbols help drivers adjust quicker to conditions ahead and let them know what to expect. Here are ways that road signs with images communicate effectively with drivers.

Sign Colors and Shapes

One of the ways that a sign can visually communicate without words is with colors. The Federal Highway Administration has established specific meanings for different colors For example, red alerts the driver to stop or yield and is used for “do not enter” signs. Yellow backgrounds indicate a general warning message while white backgrounds are associated with regulations. Green suggests traffic is allowed to proceed while blue is used for road user services. Orange is used for construction work and warns drivers to be cautious of nearby road workers. Each of these colors carries a certain level of authority and sense of urgency.

The shape of the sign also instantly communicates a message to drivers, as regulatory signs are usually rectangular, except for octagon-shaped stop signs and inverted triangles indicating yield. Drivers recognize diamond-shaped signs from far away as road signals that warn about conditions, such as winding roads or animal crossings. Pentagon signs are used to alert drivers of school zone where speed limits are reduced.

Powerful Imagery

Images used for road signals tend to be simplistic and universally understood. Arrows are common for warning signs to convey the direction the road is turning. An upcoming intersection can be depicted as a cross, T, Y or other shape. The images must be obvious so that no words are needed. A typical deer crossing sign simply shows the image of a deer leaping in the air. The “slippery when wet” sign is merely a car with curve marks in front of it, as everyone instantly knows it means to be reduce speed. Part of what makes these signs widely familiar is the repetition of usage in many cities across America.

Many schools use traffic control volunteers to help manage pedestrian crosswalks near the campus. The use of actual people with signs directing traffic helps emphasize safety and slower traffic in school zones.

Bicycle images appear on signs near schools to remind drivers that they may encounter heavier traffic among bicyclists. Pedestrians are often depicted as stick figures in the process of walking. Both of these images instantly send a signal to drivers to watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists. There are literally hundreds of other possible images that can be used instead of words to effectively communicate with drivers.

Road signals can either be words or symbols to let drivers know what type of adjustments they need to make for safe driving. Think about a custom design for your organization that helps reduce the strain of traffic in your area. Remember that a message can often be delivered quicker with simple images that convey clear action.

To learn more about road signs and signals or for a Free Quote, contact Zumar.

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