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Regulatory Signs Explained: What They Are and the 40 Most Common in the U.S.

Regulatory Signs Explained: What They Are and the 40 Most Common in the U.S.

by Zutobi · Updated Feb 15, 2021

Regulatory signs are very common and are used to tell drivers what they can and cannot do. On any one trip, you are likely to spot a number of the more common regulatory signs – such as the Stop Sign, Yield Sign, No-Turn On Red Sign, or Speed Limit Sign. 

Due to the prevalence and importance of regulatory signs, they are one of the first things a beginner driver should learn by heart. If you intend to drive in traffic, you simply must know about the common regulatory signs.

What Are Regulatory Signs?

Regulatory signs are traffic signs that regulate traffic (hence the name) by giving directions that must be obeyed. They are used to help road users drive safely by reinforcing traffic laws and regulations. The laws and regulations reinforced by the regulatory sign apply either at all times or during the specified times mentioned on the sign. 

Common Regulatory Signs

Below are the most common regulatory signs used in the United States.

Stop and Yield Signs

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Stop Sign. Indicates you must come to a complete stop before the sign and yield to all other traffic before proceeding.

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Yield Sign. Indicates you must slow down on approach and yield to all other traffic. You don’t have to stop if you are alone on the road.

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Yield/STOP Here For Pedestrians Sign. Indicates you must Yield/STOP for pedestrians at the indicated position.

Speed Limit Signs

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Speed Limit Sign. Indicates a maximum speed limit of 50 mph. This is the maximum speed at which you may travel under ideal conditions.

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Nighttime Speed Limit Sign. Indicates a maximum nighttime speed limit of 45 mph. This is the maximum speed at which you may travel at night.

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Minimum Speed Limit Sign. This regulatory sign is intended to keep traffic flowing smoothly, and indicates a minimum speed limit of 40 mph. Do not drive slower than indicated!

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Speed Sign With Minimum Speed Limit Sign. This sign indicates a maximum AND minimum speed that you may travel. In this case, you must travel between 30-55 mph.

Lane Usage and Turns Signs

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Turn Only Lanes Sign. This sign indicates that traffic may only move in the directions indicated for each lane. In this case, the left lane may only turn left, the middle lane may only go straight ahead, and the right lane may only turn right.

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Advanced Intersection Control Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that traffic may only move in the directions indicated for each lane. In this case, the left lane may only turn left, and traffic in the right lane may turn left or go straight ahead.

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Option Sign for Left or Straight Turn Sign. Traffic driving in a lane with this sign must turn left or go straight ahead. There are similar signs for turning left, right, and for making a U-turn. .

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Straight Ahead Only Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that no turns are allowed. You must drive straight ahead.

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Right Turn Only Sign. This sign indicates that all vehicles in this lane must only turn right.

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Concurrent (Center) Left Turn Lane (Overhead) Sign. This sign indicates a two-way left turn lane placed in the center of the road. Traffic from both directions may only turn left if using this lane.

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Reversible Lane Control Sign. This regulatory sign indicates a reversible lane and specifies at what time the lane is open for traffic. Reversible lanes may be open in one direction during the morning commute, and another direction in the afternoon. 

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Center Lane Control Sign. This regulatory sign prohibits the use of the center lane between the specified times.

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HOV 2+ Sign. This sign indicates that you may ONLY drive in this lane if there are 2 or more persons in the vehicle including the driver.

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HOV 2+ Only Sign. This sign indicates that the HOV 2+ limit applies during the specified times.

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No Right/Left Turn Sign. This sign indicates that you are prohibited from making a left/right turn here.

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No U-turn Sign. This sign indicates that you are prohibited from making a U-turn here. 

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No Left or U-turn Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that you are prohibited from making a left/right turn here.

Regulatory Signs that Regulate Movement

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Keep Left/Right Sign. This sign indicates that you must keep to the left/right. 

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Keep Left/Right of The Traffic Island Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that the road will be divided by an island. Traffic must keep left/right. 

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Stop Here When Flashing Sign. This sign is often found at railroad crossings and indicates the position you should stop when the lights are flashing.

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Cyclists May Use Full Lane Sign. This sign indicates that cyclists may use the full lane on the road ahead. 

One Way and Divided Highway Signs

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One Way Sign. This sign indicates that there is one-way traffic in the direction of the arrow. Traffic must move in the direction of the arrow.

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Divided Highway Crossing T-intersection Sign. This sign indicates that you are approaching a T-intersection with a divided highway.

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Chevron Roundabout Directional Sign. These ‘chevrons’ are used to indicate the direction that traffic must travel in a roundabout.

Exclusionary signs 

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Do Not Enter Sign. This sign indicates that you mustn’t enter the road at which this sign is posted. Traffic may, for example, travel in the opposite direction beyond this point.

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No Large Trucks Sign. This sign indicates that trucks are not allowed on the road.

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No Bicycles Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that bicycles are not allowed on the road.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Signs

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No Pedestrian Crossing Sign. This sign indicates that pedestrians are not to cross at the sign.

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No Hitchhiking Sign. Hitchhiking is prohibited past this sign, and drivers shouldn’t stop to pick up hitchhikers.

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Turning Vehicles Yield to Pedestrians Sign. This sign indicates that all turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians.

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Left Turn Yield on Green Sign. This regulatory sign indicates that all drivers turning left on a green light must yield.

Railroad Crossing Signs

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Railroad Crossing Sign. This sign indicates that there’s a railroad crossing ahead. Be alert and ready to stop.

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No Driving on Railroad Tracks. This sign indicates that driving is prohibited on the railroad tracks.

School Signs

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School Sign. This sign warns of a school or pedestrian crosswalk near a school ahead. Be alert and ready to stop.

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School Speed Limit Ahead Sign. This sign warns you of a school speed limit sign ahead. Prepare to lower your speed to the indicated speed.

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School Speed Limit When Flashing Sign. This speed limit applies near schools when the lights are flashing. 

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School Bus Stop Ahead. This sign warns of a school bus stop ahead. Proceed carefully, especially during just before/after school hours.

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