Road Sign Colors and Their Meanings in the USA 2024

Graphic of an overhead road with a color wheel chart for road sign colors and meanings featuring traffic signs.

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: July 5, 2024 10:37am CDT

Graphic of an overhead road with a color wheel chart for road sign colors and meanings featuring traffic signs.

Navigating the roadways can be a complex task, but thanks to the standardized system of road signs, drivers can make informed decisions quickly and safely.

One key element that helps convey important information to drivers is the specific color of each road sign.

Each color is carefully specified in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, MUTCD for short, to communicate specific types of messages, ensuring a uniform understanding across the country.

In this article and its accompanying infographic chart and bonus video, we’ll delve into the meanings behind the various road sign colors in the United States, helping you become a more informed and confident driver.

Infographic diagram of road sign colors in the United States with examples: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Orange, White, Brown, Fluorescent yellow-green.
This infographic chart displays the eight (8) colors of road signs and their meanings in the US with examples.

Whether you’re new behind the wheel and are studying to take the written or driving portion of the driver’s license tests at your local DMV or are just looking to brush up on your knowledge, this guide will illuminate the crucial role that color plays in road safety.

So, let’s shift this blog article into drive and begin to pick up speed.

Why Do Road Signs Use Color?

The color of road signs acts as a visual cue at a subconscious level to help drivers quickly recognize and understand the sign’s meaning.

This concept falls under the areas of color psychology (studies how different colors affect human behavior and mood) and color symbolism (refers to the use of colors as a symbol across cultures).

For example, red is commonly used to indicate stop or prohibition, while green is often associated with go or permission.

These color associations have become widely recognized and understood by drivers, making it easier for them to interpret road signs quickly.

Using color in road signs also helps enhance visibility, especially in different lighting conditions. Bright, contrasting colors are often used to ensure that signs stand out and can be easily seen from a distance.

This is particularly important at night or in adverse weather conditions, which inherently reduce visibility (make the signs more difficult to read at a distance).

What Are the Eight Colors of Road Signs?

Traffic signs in the United States use these eight colors to convey different meanings to drivers and pedestrians on the roadway:

Road Sign Colors

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Orange
  • White
  • Brown
  • Fluorescent yellow-green

What do red road signs mean?

Red Road Signs

A red-color road sign-themed collage featuring a stop sign, classic cars, flowers, musical instruments, and various objects.

Red road signs convey critical safety and regulatory information to drivers, which requires them to take immediate action. Their primary purpose and meaning is to indicate prohibitions or instructions crucial for maintaining road safety and order.

Common Types of Red Traffic Signs:

These signs are colored red because they are highly visible and universally associated with danger and give feelings of energy and excitement, acting as a heightened level of call to action for road users to stop.

Red road signs often include circles with a bar across to indicate prohibitive or warning actions, such as “No Parking” or “No Entry,” similar to no smoking signs found in restaurants and bars.

What do yellow road signs mean?

Yellow Road Signs

A yellow-color road sign-themed collage with items: taxi, sunflower, traffic light, deer crossing sign, and railroad crossing sign.

Yellow road signs are warning signs that alert drivers to potential hazards or changes in road conditions ahead. They are designed to grab attention with bright, noticeable colors and typically feature black text or symbols.

These signs enhance road safety by providing advance notice of conditions such as curves, pedestrian crossings, school zones, or animal crossings, allowing drivers to adjust their speed and driving behavior accordingly.

Common Types of Yellow Traffic Signs:

The color psychology of yellow for road signs is to grab attention and convey a warning or caution, leveraging its association with alertness and heightened awareness.

What do green road signs mean?

Green Road Signs

A green car glides through a whimsical, lush landscape dotted with road signs and a traffic light showing "Green".

Green road signs are guide signs that provide directional guidance about permitted movements and information about destinations. They often include the distance (in miles) to a place, the direction, or the location of specific routes or highways.

Their primary purpose and meaning is to help drivers navigate to their desired destinations efficiently and safely.

Common Types of Green Traffic Signs:

The color psychology of green for road signs is evoking feelings of safety, calm, and reliability, often symbolizing direction and reassurance in navigation.

What do blue road signs mean?

Blue Road Signs

Blue road sign-themed rest area illustration with vehicles, a truck, and a lake set against mountain scenery.

Blue road signs provide motorists with various types of service information or evacuation routes. They are informational signs that can include symbols for services such as rest areas, hospitals, or gas stations.

Signs displaying amenities accessible via an upcoming exit on a highway have blue backgrounds.

Although not directly traffic control-related, handicap-accessible parking spot signs are also blue.

The primary purpose and meaning of these signs is to guide and inform rather than to regulate traffic or display warnings.

Common Types of Blue Traffic Signs:

The color psychology of blue for road signs conveys a sense of calm, trust, and reliability.

Color studies identify blue as an emotionless color that does not induce excitement, which helps to provide clear, non-urgent information and directions to drivers via motorist services signs.

What do orange road signs mean?

Orange Road Signs

A lively scene with orange roadwork signs, vehicles, and construction equipment set against an autumn-themed backdrop.

Orange traffic signs warn drivers about temporary road conditions, most commonly used within construction zone areas along streets and highways.

Their primary purpose and meaning is to indicate to drivers and pedestrians of upcoming road work, changes in traffic patterns, and potential hazards.

Orange road signs are crucial for ensuring safety and guiding traffic efficiently through areas where road conditions are temporarily changed due to maintenance or construction activities.

Common Types of Orange Traffic Signs:

The color orange can cause feelings of sluggishness, which construction and maintenance road signs leverage to ensure driver and road worker safety.

What do white road signs mean?

White Road Signs

A whimsical winter scene with a white speed limit 50 road sign, festive decorations, a truck, and a fence.

White traffic signs are regulatory signs that provide information displaying traffic laws and regulations that must be obeyed. They are typically rectangular and display black or red lettering or symbols on a white background.

These signs aim to ensure the safe and efficient movement of traffic by indicating rules such as speed limits, parking regulations, and lane usage.

Common Types of White Traffic Signs:

A significant factor of the color psychology for white background road signs is that the color works well with black letters, which convey a sense of authority and power, as in laying down the law with regulatory information, like with maximum and minimum speed limit signs.

What do brown road signs mean?

Brown Road Signs

A brown wooden "State Park" road sign with trees, barrels, vintage cars, and a visible brown color palette.

Brown road signs indicate areas of recreational and cultural interest. They guide travelers to places of interest such as parks, historic sites, scenic points, picnic areas, beaches, and other tourist attractions.

The purpose and meaning of these brown signs is to indicate nearby recreational and historical locations and display details about available activities that are of interest to visitors there, enhancing their travel experience.

Common Types of Brown Traffic Signs:

  • National or state park signs
  • Recreational activity area signs
  • Historic site signs

The color psychology of brown for road signs is that brown is common in nature and the environment, making it a good color for parks and recreation.

Brown is an emotionless color that does not induce excitement, which helps to provide clear, non-urgent information and directions to drivers via motorist services signs.

What do fluorescent yellow-green road signs mean?

Fluorescent Yellow-Green Road Signs

Colorful school scene with fluorescent yellow-green traffic signs, a yellow car, and green plants.

Fluorescent yellow-green road signs alert drivers to school zones, pedestrian crossings, and bicycle crossings.

These signs are highly visible and are designed to catch the attention of drivers to ensure they are aware of potential hazards involving pedestrians and cyclists, promoting safety in areas where such crossings are common.

The MUTCD standards have required school zone sign installations to be fluorescent yellow-green since 2009.

Common Types of Fluorescent Yellow-Green Traffic Signs:

The color psychology of fluorescent yellow-green color for road signs is that the color attracts instant attention and is stimulating, causing alertness.

It is also a relatively new and enhanced version of the traditional yellow warning signs, which also indicates caution to drivers but with improved visibility and safety, benefitting the safety of school zones and pedestrian crossings.

Reflective Materials in Road Signs

While colors help differentiate and categorize signs during the day, reflective materials in road signs are crucial for enhancing visibility, especially during low-light conditions or at night.

This dual approach significantly improves road safety by providing clear guidance to drivers regardless of the time of day or weather conditions.

Glowing reflective stop sign with colorful geometric shapes and spotlights around it.

Road signs are made with retroreflective sheeting for safety, which is applied to a rigid backing material or substrate, such as aluminum, wood, or composite plastic.

The sheeting can consist of glass beads, micro prisms, or encapsulated lenses that reflect light from car headlights, making signs visible at night.

Types of Retroreflective Materials Used in US Road Signs

The following are the three main types of reflective sheeting used on traffic signs across the United States, from best to worst performing.

Diamond Grade (DG)

This type of reflective sheeting is considered the most efficient, returning 60% of the light that hits it for maximum luminance. DG sheeting is suitable for use in all traffic sign types and performs best at all distances and sign positions.

It uses full cube technology, which makes it superior to other material types.

High Intensity Prismatic (HIP)

Also known as “encapsulated lens” sheeting, HIP sheeting delivers intermediate luminance performance, offering enough luminance for most road sign situations. It consists of two layers: a translucent pigmented outer layer and a reflective inner layer with glass beads.

Engineer Grade Prismatic (EGP)

Also known as “Type I reflective,” engineer-grade prismatic sheeting is only suitable for use in areas with slower-moving traffic, such as towns, secondary roads, private subdivisions, and parking lots.

Magnifying glass focusing on the texture of a red "Engineer Prismatic Grade" reflective sheeting on a stop sign.
This mage gives readers a close-up view of a stop sign with engineer grade prismatic reflective sheeting.

In Summary About the Importance of Color in Road Signs

Understanding the colors of road signs in the United States is crucial for ensuring road safety. Each color serves a specific purpose, like red for stop or yield, yellow for caution, and green for guidance.

By familiarizing ourselves with these colors and their meanings, we can make informed driving decisions and contribute to a safer road environment.

More About Who We Are and What We Do

At Express Legal Funding, we want to thank you for reading this expert guide and share with you a few details about what we do as a company and how it relates to the color of road signs.

As a nationally recognized and trusted company based in Plano, Texas, we provide non-recourse pre-settlement funding to plaintiffs involved in personal injury and civil lawsuits, helping them cover living expenses and other costs during the litigation process.

With our fast financial assistance, we aim to make their lives easier during ongoing legal battles.

As for the relevance of the color of road signs, we know firsthand how when drivers don’t follow the rules of the road, such as not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, rear-end car accidents often occur, resulting in injured victims being forced to file a lawsuit to be compensated for the harm caused to them.

Personal injury claim situations bring extra expenses and loss of income, which is where the pre-settlement advance funding from Express Legal Funding is critical.

If that sounds like your or your loved ones’ current predicament, we encourage you to give us a call or apply online. Explore your legal funding options today!

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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