Traffic Signs and Signals


As a result of the United Nations Sponsored Workshop on Road Signs and Signals, Road Traffic Administration and Road Safety Legal Instruments which held at the CBN International Training Institute, Abuja – Tuesday 28th to Wednesday 29th November, 2017, with particular reference to the 1968 Convention on Road Signs and Signals, this week’s article throws a little bit of light on traffic signs. Traffic signs and signals help indicate the rules of the road and are designed for the safe movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. As a driver, you are required to know them. The shapes of traffic signs enable you to identify them easily.

Clear and efficient signing is an essential part of highway and traffic engineering and a road with poor signing or with badly maintained signs is classed as an unsatisfactory road. With this in mind, Nigerian roads could be classed as unsatisfactory, as they are bare of road signs. Road users depend on signing for information and guidance, enforcement of traffic regulations, for traffic control, and as an aid to road safety. Having properly maintained and correctly placed road signs can help deter the number of motorists and pedestrians who are killed or injured in road traffic crashes every year.

Signs must give road users their message clearly and at the correct time. The message must be unambiguous and speedily understood; it must be given not too soon for the information to have been forgotten before it is needed, and not too late for the safe performance of consequent manoeuvres.

The types of traffic signs and signals available for use are prescribed by Regulations. Limiting the number of types of sign available assists in their quick recognition as does the uniformity of shape, colour and lettering for each type. Quick recognition is further aided by using different shapes and colours for different sign groups, e.g., warning signs are triangular with black symbols, yellow backgrounds and red borders.

There are three basic types of traffic sign: signs that give orders, signs that warn and signs that give information. Each type has a different shape. A further guide to the function of a sign is its colour. All triangular signs are red. Circular signs give orders, triangular signs warn, and rectangular signs inform.

Blue circles generally give a mandatory instruction such as “turn left”, or indicate a route available only to particular classes of traffic, e.g. buses and cycles only. Red rings or circles tell you what you must not do, e.g. you must not exceed 50 kmph. Blue rectangles are used for information signs except on expressways where blue is used for direction signs. Green rectangles are used for direction signs. There are a few exceptions to the shape and colour rules, to give certain signs greater prominence. Examples are the “STOP” and “GIVE WAY” signs.

Warning Signs

These signs warn of possible dangerous conditions immediately ahead. Warning signs are displayed in a red triangle, pointing upwards with symbol or words on a yellow background. They should be placed well in advance of a hazard and allow plenty of time for drivers to take appropriate action.

Regulatory Signs

These signs regulate your driving, informing you about speed limits, permitted turns, stopping and parking rules. Most regulatory signs are circular. A red ring or red circle indicates a prohibition. A blue circle generally gives a positive (mandatory) instruction, but two notable exceptions are:

The “STOP” sign means you must stop before crossing the line on the road and ensure the way is clear before entering the major road. The “GIVE WAY” sign means you must give way to traffic on the major road.

Guide and Information Signs

These tell you where you are, what road you are on or how to get to certain places. There are many different types of these signs, such as service signs, location signs, route marker information and distance signs, and they vary in size and colour.

Stephen K. Dieseruvwe

Director General, Delta State Traffic Management Authority (DESTMA)

**Driver Trainer and Road Safety Consultant


**Tel: +2348167814928