Motorway signs and their meanings
While driving along the motorway, there are various signs that you will come across. While some may be obvious to drivers of all experience levels, some meanings of signs are still unknown to drivers with years of experience.
Below are the most important motorway signs categorised by their type.
Direction signs are commonly rectangular in shape with a blue background. They can often be found prior to junctions and after junctions.
This sign is found leading up to a junction.
It states the destination, road number, junction number and how far away the junction is.
These signs are found after junctions.
They are known as ‘route confirmatory signs’ and give details of the road you are on, and the closest major destinations with their distance in miles.
These signs are found overhead and indicate the road is about to split into two. The downward pointing arrows are telling you to get in lane. Using the above as an example, in ½ mile, the left lane will head in a different direction towards Marlow.
These panels are also found overhead and are found prior to junctions. They indicate the destinations the next junction leads to, and the destinations that can be reached by staying on the current road.
This sign indicates that the upcoming junction splits the motorway into two and different destinations can be reached by each route.
Road users must be in the correct lane at this point to avoid missing the junction.
Information signs come in different colours, for example, information for tourists is typically displayed on a brown background.
This indicates the start of a motorway and the point from which all motorway regulations apply.
These signs inform us of the popular tourist destinations that can be reached by turning off at the next junction.
More than likely, there will be another similar sign before reaching the junction.
These types of signs detail the services available at the next junction.
These signs may contain petrol stations, toilet facilities and branded fast-food, café, or hotel chains.
A direction sign labelled “services” will often follow prior to the junction.
These signs appear in areas which have cameras in place to enforce traffic regulations.
These cameras may or may not sit in an obvious location, it is utmost important to follow traffic regulations to avoid penalties and keep you and other road users safe.
Indicates the end of a motorway and the point from which motorway regulations no longer apply.
Road works signs
The UK’s roads are always changing, and it’s getting more and more likely that you’ll come across some sort of roadworks while travelling across the country. These are some of the signs you are likely to come across while passing through motorway roadworks.
This sign indicates there is a temporary lane closure in 800 yards.
It will be likely followed by a sign telling you to prepare for this and ask you to move into either of the two open lanes.
These are often found on the rear of works vehicles.
These vehicles are often stationary and blocking a lane.
You must pass the vehicle in the direction indicated by the arrow.
Informative signs are often put in place prior to the roadworks indicating how far away you are from then and also how long they plan to be working that stretch.
These can be helpful when planning future journeys.
These signs tell us there is a mandatory speed limit ahead.
These signs override the national speed limit of 70mph and must be obeyed.
Highways Agency will sometimes indicate the end of roadworks with an apology notice.
Smart motorway signs
Smart motorways are becoming more and more common. They are put in place to actively manage the flow of traffic using advanced technology. Smart motorways are controlled from a local traffic control centre, this allows signs and speed limits to be changed at any time.
Obeying smart motorway signs is as important as obeying physical ones. Below are some of the most commonly seen smart motorway signs.
This indicates the below lane is closed.
Road users must not drive in this lane and change into an open lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
If the overhead sign displays a new speed limit, this must be obeyed.
This overrides the 70mph motorway speed limit and is often temporary, based on the driving conditions ahead.
This sign is telling road users to exit the motorway at the next junction.
These only appear if a stretch of the motorway becomes closed and looks to be closed for some time.
Diversions will often be put in place.
Smart motorways will also inform road users of potential risks in various driving conditions.
These may be “fog” or “ice” for example.
Indicates the end of any temporary restrictions put in place, such as speed limits.
Good luck with your motorway experience. Hopefully our guide has rested those nerves a little and helped to boost your confidence. Have a safe journey!