Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes

Written by ki west
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes
The Stop sign is the only sign that's octagonal. (traffic sign image by Lario Tus from

Traffic signs are an important part of everyday driving. The way that a traffic sign is designed both in its wording and shape is to help the driver to identify it even in adverse weather conditions. If it's snowing or raining heavily and a sign is difficult to see, you can generally understand its overall message just by the shape.


The Stop sign is the only sign that is shaped like an octagon--having eight sides. So if it has an octagon shape, it's a Stop sign.


The triangle with the point pointing down indicates a Yield sign. This requires the driver to yield to oncoming or merging traffic.

Rectangle or Square

The rectangular sign can be either a square shape, a tall rectangle or a longways rectangle. This shape regulates the driver's speed and direction. Examples of this sign include Wrong Way, Do Not Enter, No "U" Turn, and Speed Limit signs.

Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes
Do Not Enter and Wrong Way signs (wrong way sign image by Aaron Kohr from


This diamond shaped sign indicates a warning of possible danger ahead. Examples of this sign include Signal Ahead, Two-Way Traffic and Bicycle Crossing. The Turn, Curve and Winding Road signs are also diamond shaped. Most warning signs contain a graphic representation of the hazard, such as Cattle Crossing (a picture of a cow), Slippery When Wet (a car sliding), Merge (arrows coming together), and Four-Way Intersection (a crossing of lines). Most construction and maintenance signs are diamond shaped. They warn of impending construction and maintenance and forewarn the driver of possible dangers. Flaggers at work zones hold diamond shaped signs. They use them to to slow or control the flow of traffic.

Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes
Work zone (road work ahead image by Michael Shake from


A pentagon (five-sided) sign is a School Crossing sign (picturing two people in a crosswalk with an arrow). This sign indicates that there are children crossing throughout the day.

Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes
School Crossing (child sign yellow image by robert mobley from


This stretched triangle sign with the point to the right indicates the beginning of a No Passing Zone.

Railroad Crossing

A round sign indicates a Railroad Warning. The sign itself has an "X" with two R's on opposite sides. It indicates an upcoming railroad crossing. There is an additional Railroad Crossing sign that is shaped like an "X." It has the words "Railroad" going down one side of the "X" and the words "Crossing" going up the other side of the "X." At the bottom of the sign it will indicate how many tracks are on this particular crossing. If you see flashing red lights, lowered crossing gates, ringing bells or a flagger warning of an approaching train, do not cross the tracks.

Traffic Signs and the Significance of Their Shapes
Railroad Warning sign (Railroad Crossing Sign image by Chuck Alexander from

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.