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Traffic Sign Color Conventions

Unless you just got your license last week, when you drive, you usually know exactly what the signs around you are communicating without a moment’s thought.

Traffic signage is standardized by the MUTCD, or Manual of Universal Traffic Control Devices, and although most of us can tell what a stop sign, a detour sign or a curve warning want us to do, we may not be aware of the pattern behind sign colors, which have been carefully planned by state and federal departments of transportation with specific purposes in mind.

Color Example Purpose
Red Red Signs Red is the international color of “pay attention!”. So as not to dull its impact, it’s used for only the most important directives: stop, yield, and (in some cases) interstate routes.
Orange Orange Signs Another attention-getting warm color, orange is typically used to warn drivers about temporary measures, like detours and unexpected curves due to road repairs.
Yellow Eye-catching yellow Eye-catching yellow is the color of warning in the U.S. It’s seen everywhere from bicycle and pedestrian signs and slow signs to signage warning of dangerous (but permanent) road conditions.
Green Green Signs Green signs are for guiding, for information (like state lines and library directions), and for letting the public know about some local features like train stations. Green and brown signs can sometimes be used interchangeably; check the MUTCD.
Blue Blue Signs A jack-of-all-trades color, blue can be used for routine wayfinding like interstate signage, but it can also make an appearance in informational signs (like advice on radio stations to tune into for traffic information, or for evacuation routes.
Brown Brown Signs It may seem like an unappealing choice, but the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated brown for recreation-related signs – directing drivers to parks, local amenities, airports, and areas of public or historical interest.
Black Black signs Black signs are mainly used with white type for warnings and advisories, but also for.The most commonly seen? “One way.”
White White Signs The most common regulatory color – you may know white-background signs from nearly every speed limit you’ve ever seen, but also signs warning truckers of weight limits, on some nok turn signs, and many others. White is the default all-purpose background color for many common street traffic uses.