Signals are the most obvious means of communication between drivers and all other road users. They are usually given by direction indicator but can also be given by arm. As a good driver you should try to identify other driver‟s intentions not just by electronic indicators, but by where he or she is looking, the vehicles speed or the direction where the vehicle‟s front wheels are pointing. As a driver one must never under-estimate the value of traffic signs, lights and road markings when learning to drive. They play an enormous role in regulating traffic flow and behaviour, as well as providing invaluable information to the driver. You must develop a good understanding and make use of the information they provide and integrate them seamlessly into your driving skills. There are penalties for disobeying traffic light signals; these also exist for certain traffic signs. Many signs warn road users of hazards, while others provide helpful information. Road markings fulfil a very similar role, sometimes in conjunction with traffic signs and lights, but also as information providers in their own right. Drivers must also be prepared for traffic schemes where traffic signs, lights and road markings are omitted.

The decision on any use of signals must involve consideration of all road users that are nearby.

Use the MSM Driving plan. Observe and assess the movement of all types of traffic ahead, to the side and behind the vehicle and decide the best use of

  • Signals – Understand the importance of giving signals by direction indicator or arm signal where necessary, in good time and correctly.
  • Correct use of horn and flashing headlights

Mirrors - Signal - Manoeuvre

  • Give Signals: where necessary by indicator/arm
  • Give Signals: correctly by indicator/arm
  • Give Signals: properly times by indicator/arm

In today‟s busy road systems it is important to respond in a safe manner and in order to do that we must first be able to understand and recognise what the signs, signal or markings mean. If you do not understand a sign you will not be able to react to it and so your studies should not finish with the passing of theory test but you should update your knowledge by re-reading the Highway Code and updating yourself with the new one if there are any revisions.

Secondly you will respond to a sign, signal or marking if you recognise and see it early enough to be able to access the situation and decide on an appropriate course of action. To help us respond we will follow a system which is LOOK (at Road Markings), ASSES (which lane), DECIDE (ahead), ACT (make progress following the M-S-M routine). Briefly we would be looking ahead to see a sign, access what it means, decide on a course of action and then check the mirrors, give a signal if necessary and carry on the manoeuvre. Correct signals must be given where they are needed and in plenty of time. The skill is a key element of the system of driving taught to new drivers and developed by expert advanced drivers.

The main groups of the traffic signs are the traffic lights, traffic signs and finally road markings. You will have to refer to the Highway code for more information on each of the above. 

Traffic signs, light signals and road markings convey orders, warnings and information. Do check. Spend some time comparing these traffic signs:

  • Dual Carriageway Ahead and Road Narrows
  • Turn Left and Keep Left
  • Steep Hill Upwards and Steep Hill Downwards
  • Two way traffic straight ahead and Two way traffic crosses one way road
  • Cycle Route Ahead, Cyclist Only, No Cycling, Route to be used by pedal cyclists only

It is important to understand the system of traffic sign shapes and coloured backgrounds and borders, meaning and sequence of traffic light signals, meaning and importance of the most common road markings, recognition to all traffic signs, light signals and road markings. Advances in technology are used to assist drivers to reach their destinations safely. These changes have recently brought about new traffic signs such as:

  • Active Traffic Management
  • Advanced Stop Lines for pedal cyclists
  • Vehicle Activated Signs (Slow down – 30mph limit)
  • Congestion Charging
  • Signs for trams

Respond and Comply with all

  • Traffic Signs 
  • Traffic Lights
  • Road Markings

Traffic Signs giving ORDERS – The importance of

  • Complying with the law
  • Knowing the difference between mandatory signs and those that indicate a prohibition
  • The need to respond to circular signs in plenty of time

Traffic Signs giving WARNINGS – The importance of

  • Being aware of potential dangers
  • The need to respond to triangular signs in plenty of time

Traffic Signs giving INFORMATION – The importance of

  • Following route directions and/or advice given
  • Knowing the meaning of coloured borders and symbols
  • Using these signs during “independent driving”

Traffic Light Signals – The importance of obeying light signals at

  • Road Junctions
  • All types of Controlled Crossings, e.g. pedestrian, railway (level), fire and/or ambulance stations
  • Road works

Road Markings – The importance of obeying or recognising

  • Give Way and Stop lines
  • Single and double white line systems in the centre of the road 
  • Coloured reflective studs
  • Lane lines
  • White zigzag lines at pedestrians crossings
  • White hatch markings (Chevrons)
  • Word markings (e.g. restricting waiting and access to box junctions)
  • Red lines restricting any stopping at kerbside

Frequently asked questions:

  • What is the correct sequence/order of lights on a traffic signal in which they appear in?

The sequence is :

Red - Red and Amber - Green

Green - Amber – Red

Meaning of each light as below;

Red : To stop behind the stop line

Red and Amber : Stop

Green : Ready to go if safe to do so

Amber :Be ready to Stop

Food for thought – (You should give a think to the below and discuss this with your instructor)

Which road users can only use arm signals?

When will you usually need to indicate?

Lesson no: 
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