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    International Road Sign Guide for Travelers

    With the implementation of the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals in 1978, many members of the European Union now utilize a standard set of signs and signals to make travel easier for both visitors and residents alike. You will see signs and advisements that will be only valid in a particular country, such as London's congestion charge; however a majority of the signs in European destinations will be standardized.

    Standard signs found throughout Europe will fall under the classes listed below, ranging from danger warnings, to services information, to directional signs.

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    Danger/Warning Signs

    The convention backed rules for danger warning signs are simple and very uniform in design, with little variation. Danger warning signs are either a diamond or an equilateral triangle shape, with a white or yellow background, and a red or black border. You will see danger warning signs as you approach a narrowing road, a train crossing without barrier, or an upcoming pedestrian zone. When approaching an area marked with a danger warning, proceed with caution.

    Examples of Triangular Shaped Danger Warning Signs:

    Road Narrows
    Approaching road will become narrower with little to no breakdown lane, sometimes leading to bridge or causeway.
    Train Crossing
    Approaching intersection with train tracks will have no barrier or gate to prevent traffic movement.
    Watch for Pedestrians
    Approaching a high foot-traffic area, including schools, shopping districts and landmarks. Use extreme caution.

    Examples of Diamond Shaped Danger Warning Signs:

    Sharp Turn
    Approaching turn may be hazardous without first reducing speed.
    Winding Road
    Road ahead will be hazardous with winding roads and a reduced ability to see oncoming traffic.
    Overpass Height
    Approaching overpass will have a maximum height allowance, which is advised on the sign in either feet or meters.

    Priority Road Signs

    The standard priority signs adopted internationally will differ in shape, color, and border, depending on the sign's function. Areas that require giving way or yielding to oncoming traffic will be marked with an inverted equilateral triangle with a yellow or white background and red border. Stop signs, requiring a full stop at an intersection, have little variation around the world, with a vast majority of countries using an eight sided sign with white lettering and a red background. Priority road signs indicate that the road is a priority at intersections, which allows for traffic on the priority road to flow freely. Starting points for priority roads are indicated by a white, diamond shaped sign with a yellow diamond, with priority road termination indicated with the same sign and "tire marks" or lines over the sign.


    Examples of Priority Signs:

    Similar to signage in the United States, indicating that priority is given to oncoming traffic when entering. Text may or may not be included in yield signs.
    Irish Yield
    Yield signs will sometimes include specific instructions to give way. An example of yield signs in Ireland with text.
    Stop signs indicate that a full stop is needed at an approaching intersection.
    Stop Variaants
    Stop signs will be the same shape and color, with language variants depending on the country.
    Right of Way
    Road is a priority at approaching intersections, other lanes of travel will yield.
    End Right of Way
    Road is no longer a priority road, normal traffic rules apply for approaching intersections.

    Mandatory Signs

    Signatories of the Vienna Convention define the mandatory sign design as circular in shape with a blue or white background. White signs will have a red border, while blue signs will completely blue with no border. You will see mandatory signs as you approach roads that only allow certain types of vehicles, roads that require equipment, or signs that point the way around road work or traffic islands. When approaching any of these areas, be sure to only follow the signs that are appropriate for your vehicle.

    Examples of Mandatory Signs:

    Snow Chains Required
    Winter equipment in the form of snow tires or snow chains are required, vehicles without this equipment are subject to fines or citations.
    Pass on the Right
    Approaching the pass by on right sign indicates that passing a work zone or traffic island on the right hand side is mandatory.
    Pedestrians and Biks Only
    Only pedestrians and bicycles may use the route, no motorized vehicles are allowed.
    No Passing
    There is no passing or overtaking of vehicles for the duration of the no passing zone.

    Prohibitive or Restrictive Signs

    Prohibitive and restrictive signs will be circular in shape with a white, yellow, or blue background. The signs will mark maximum speed limits, prohibited entry, no-parking zones, and cases where certain vehicle types are not allowed. These signs will also post restrictions to driving including no overtaking or passing as well as no-entry one way streets. In cases where a travel zone is defined, such as a zone prohibiting a certain vehicle type, you will see the same sign with a line crossing it, to note the end of the restricted travel zone. It is important to follow the instructions of the signs to avoid accidents, fines, and blocking traffic.


    Examples of Prohibitive and Restrictive Signs:

    Minimum Speed Limit
    Approaching road will have a minimum traveling speed zone, as indicated on the sign.
    End Minimum Speed
    The minimum speed limit zone has ended.
    No Motor Vehicles
    Vehicles are not allowed into the approaching area.
    Do Not Enter
    No entry is permitted, usually due to approaching one-way traffic.
    No Parking
    No parking is permitted in the advised zone.
    No Stopping
    Vehicles in advised zone cannot stop, stand, or park.

    Information, Facility & Service Signs

    The Vienna Convention has relatively few guidelines for the format of information and service signs. Signs are often blue or green, with no specified border color. These signs will indicate upcoming gasoline service stations, parking areas, restaurants, as well as indicators for tourism offices. These serve to assist when a particular facility is needed while driving.


    Examples of Information, Facility and Service Signs:

    Fuel Station
    The next exit or turn will have a nearby filling station.
    The next exit or turn will have access to restaurants.
    Sidewalk Parking Ok
    Parking is allowed on the sidewalk of the posted area.
    The next exit or turn will have restroom and bathroom facilities. In most countries abroad, W.C. usually refers to "water closet" when referring to a bathroom.
    Tourist Info
    The next exit or turn will have an office for tourism information.

    Direction, Position & Indication Signs

    The convention has little or no definition for the format of direction and indication signs. They are rectangular in shape and will vary in color. Motorway indicators fall into this sign category, and are usually colored blue or green. Any temporary directional sign, as involving a detour, will be yellow or orange in color. These signs serve as additional information for navigation.


    Examples of direction, position, and indication signs:

    Autobahn Entrance
    There is an upcoming entrance for a highway or autobahn.
    Route Number
    Indicates the route number of the current road.
    Consolidated Directions
    An example of direction signs indicating the nearest motorway entrance and nearby towns.
    These signs will indicate a temporary route for construction projects or obstructions.
    Roundabout Directions
    Approaching a roundabout, this sign will indicate the direction of each exit.
    Complex Turn
    Approaching an urban area with potentially confusing turns, this sign gives the specified route before entering the turn.

    Additional Panels

    These signs, as defined by the Vienna Convention, can vary greatly in color and shape. The signs serve as a supplement to danger, priority, restrictive, mandatory, information, and directional signs. The additional panel notes approximate distance until the approaching obstacle, distance until the advised service, or the length of the restricted travel zone.


    Examples of Additional Panels:

    No Passing Zone
    This additional panel advises of an approaching zone, in this example a no passing zone is approaching in 1 kilometer.
    No Passing Time
    An example of an additional panel that can be used to indicate the valid times where the restricted zone is enforced.
    Type of Danger
    Additional panels will advise of the particular form of danger for a given danger sign, in this example: frogs.
    Handicapped Parking
    Parking in the area indicated is only for certain drivers or vehicle types, in this example disabled drivers.
    Exit Ahead
    Additional panels will advise of the approximate distance until the next available exits, in this example approximately 2000 meters.
    No Stopping on Shoulder
    The additional panel will advise of the specific zone where stopping is not allowed, in this example on the shoulder of the road.

    Special Regulation Signs

    The Vienna Convention has little definition and standardization for special regulation signs. Most signing countries will utilize a rectangular shape with a blue or light background color and varying text colors. These signs will regulate the types of vehicles allowed in certain areas, note the start and end of any urban areas, and note any change to the type of road that is being used.

    Taxis Only
    A regulatory sign allowing only taxis to park in the posted area.
    Bus Lane
    A regulatory sign indicating which lane of travel is designated for buses.
    Start Urban Area
    This sign shows the start of an urban area, normally traveling speeds are reduced at this point.
    Leave Urban Area
    A corresponding sign to the start of an urban area, this sign notes the end of the area, higher traveling speeds are usually reinstated.