What Shapes Are Used for Regulatory Signs?


Regulatory signs are used to notify and remind drivers and riders of the applicable traffic rules and regulations necessary to stay safe and legal. These signs are used both on city streets and highways and, unless otherwise directed by department of transportation officials, is rectangular in shape. Countries other than the United States may have other or additional regulatory sign shapes.


  • A vast majority of regulatory signs are rectangular in shape and may be horizontally, or vertically, oriented and include: speed-limit signs, parking signs, signs directing the prohibition of either pedestrians or vehicles, keep right or left, HOV lanes, crosswalk signs, no turning signs and weight-limit signs. Most of the rectangular signs are white with either black or red lettering and can include images opposed to letters. For example, a sign telling drivers to yield for pedestrians may have an image of a stick person walking through a crosswalk.


  • There are a select few signs, mainly in only a few categories, that are square in shape, but these signs may also have a rectangular equivalent. The "turn" signs including "No Left Turn," "No U-Turn," "Right Turn Prohibited" and "Left Lane Must Turn Left." Others in a square shape include tractor trailer speed limits, "No Motor Vehicles," "No Bicycles," "No Trucks" and "Do Not Enter" signs. Most of these square-shaped signs instruct vehicle operators and pedestrians of the actions that are prohibited.


  • The most commonly recognized regulatory sign is the eight-sided "Stop" sign. Often learned in preschool, the sign's symbol is understood by many. The octagonal shape is distinct to this specific sign signaling drivers to stop their vehicles and look in all directions for any oncoming traffic before continuing. The sign is red with a thin white border and large, white, capital letters.


  • The "Yield" sign is the only triangular sign within the realm of regulatory signs. It is a downward-pointing triangle with rounded corners and has a thick red border with a smaller white triangle nestled in the center. The lettering stating "yield" is red and is all capital letters.

Cross and Miscellaneous Shapes

  • There is only one regulatory sign that is not a common polygonal shape. The railroad crossing sign used to alert drivers of upcoming railroad tracks that intersect the street. This regulatory sign separates the word railroad into two words, "rail" and "road," and states the other perpendicular section as "crossing." The sign is white in background color with black, upper-case lettering. The designated number of tracks that drivers will be crossing is a separate sign with the same color scheme but appears as a long rectangular shape with the word "tracks" on it and a square shape attached at the top center of the rectangle with the number of tracks to be crossed.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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