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Why are Signs Different Shapes and Colors?

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Traffic and construction signs convey information to travelers and pedestrians through their shape, color, message and placement. Here we’ll discuss the different shapes and colors and what they are used for.

According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a sign must fulfill a need, command attention, convey a simple meaning, command respect from travelers and give adequate time for proper response.

There are 10 Different shapes and colors used for road and construction signs:

stop signOctagon

The octagon is a regulatory sign because it informs motorists what to do, or not do. This shape is exclusively used for stop, yield, do not enter and wrong way signs. The stop sign is reflective to show the same shape and color during both the day and night. Stop signs have a red background with white letters and border.

yield sign

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Triangle

The triangle is a regulatory sign that alerts drivers to slow down because another direction of traffic has the right of way. This shape is reserved exclusively for the yield sign. The yield sign has a white background with a wide red border and letters.

deer sign

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Diamond

The diamond is a warning sign; alerting drivers to potentially hazardous road conditions ahead. These warning signs can alert drivers to a sharp curve ahead, caution drivers the road is slippery when wet, or alert drivers of a hidden intersection. Warning signs have a yellow background with black letters and border.

u-turn sign

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Circle

The circle is a regulatory sign to inform drivers they should not be doing something. This sign is a red circle outline with a slash through the middle, across a black symbol of the prohibited action. These signs inform drivers not to enter, perform a U-turn or turn left or right.

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school crossing signPentagon

The pentagon is warning sign that alerts drivers to watch for pedestrians or school children. These signs are fluorescent yellow-green for easer visibility in low light, rainy and foggy weather.

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no passing zone sign

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Pennant

The pennant is a warning sign that informs drivers no to pass in front of them. They are placed at the beginning, and at intervals along a zone where sight distance is restricted or other conditions make passing traffic dangerous. Their colors are usually black lettering on yellow background, but older signs may be black on white.

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one way sign left

one way signRectangle

There are two different shapes of rectangular signs; vertical and horizontal. Vertical signs are regulatory in nature, like a speed limit sign. Horizontal signs can be used for a variety of needs. They can inform drivers of a one-way street, road hazards, or as a mile market.

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crossbuck sign railroad crossing

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Crossbuck

These signs are used for railroad crossing to warn motorists and pedestrians of a possible oncoming train. These crossbuck signs have black lettering on a white background. Many of these signs are being replaced by circular signs with a yellow background and black lettering.

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recreation area sign

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Trapezoid

These are used for recreational and area guide signs and are most often white lettering with a brown or green background. Although, you can find them with a blue background and white lettering.

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Other Shapes

These can be a host of different shapes and are used for route marker signs. The objectives of these signs are to convey traffic control information to the driver.

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