Commonly confused road signs & what they actually mean

We’ve all been there. Enjoying your drive, singing along to your favourite song then you approach a road with an unfamiliar sign. Panic sets in. What does it mean? How should you proceed? Will you get a ticket?

It’s unsurprising really, that even the most experienced driver could be stumped by an unfamiliar sign. There are hundreds in use, it’s been potentially years since we looked at the Highway Code and even if we have, driver theory tests don’t cover them all.

A study by Europcar found that over 50% of Brits did not know the meaning of the most common signs. Not only is it potentially hazardous for the driver in question, hesitating or being unsure can pose a risk to other drivers. So, it’s really important to understand traffic signs so you can drive safely from A-B.

Here, we will uncover some commonly confused road signs and tell you what they actually mean! But first, a bit of background and a short quiz, if you want to test out your knowledge first! 

Different shapes and sizes

I have to admit, I had completely forgotten that the shape of the sign meant something (but I did take my driving test some 18 years ago!). Remembering what the different shapes of signs mean may help you in the future.


  • Circular road signs – give orders
  • Triangular road signs – gives a warning
  • Rectangular road signs – are informational 

Why not test yourself?


Before reading the rest of the article, do you know what these common road signs mean? No cheating!

Now, let’s see if you need to go back to driving school…

1. Minimum speed limit

Blue circular road sign - minimum speed limit sign

Minimum? Don’t you mean maximum? Actually, no! A solid blue circular sign is there to warn drivers of the minimum speed limits (of course, when it’s safe to do so). It might seem unusual but in some situations, going too slowly can cause accidents as well.

2. No entry

This one has stumped me a few times.

Road signs in red mean a restriction of some form. Many of these signs are accompanied by timings – such as Monday – Saturday or 8-10am. Meaning that between those times, cars and motorbikes (in this example) are prohibited from using the road. Don’t be fooled (like me!) in thinking only signs with a big cross through it means no entry…

3. National speed limit applies

A white circle, with a diagonal black stripe tells you that the national speed limit applies. But that does not always mean 70mph – it depends on the type of road you are on. So check your surroundings, you should be able to work out which applies.

Dual carriageway & motor ways
Single carriageway
Car speed limit
70 mph
60 mph
30 mph
Van/towing speed limit
60 mph
50 mph
30 mph

4. Vehicles may pass either side to reach same destination

What happens when the road ahead of you splits in two. Are they leading to different places, or can you use either lane? Look out for the blue circular sign with two arrows – this will tell you that you’ll get to the same destination, whichever lane you choose.

5. End of controlled parking zone

This sign is very useful if you are trying to find a free parking space. When you see this, it means any local parking restrictions have ended. So in theory, you should be able to freely park – but always check local road signs!

6. No overtaking

Again, you might think that this sort of sign should have a cross through it to signal NOT to do something. But like the example above, when there is a circular sign in red, this is giving an order. In this case, telling drivers not to overtake. You may see this sign on single carriageways or where there are lots of bends in the road, making overtaking dangerous. 

7. Two-way traffic crosses one-way road

This one is a really commonly confused sign. This sign is designed to alert drivers of the upcoming change in road direction. It would be displayed on a one way road, where two-way traffic crosses it. Drivers need to be extra vigilant when approaching the end of the one-way street. 


So there you have it!


How did you fare on our quiz? Whether you are an experienced driver, or new to the roads it’s really important you know your road signs. Both for the safety of you and your passengers, and for other drivers. If you’re feeling unsure, we’d recommend giving yourself a quick reminder of some of the most common signs, by heading over to


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