Chapter 4: Traffic Control

chapter 4


Note:  Practice quizzes are available only for those sections of the manual covering rules of the road (Chapters 4 through 11 and Road Signs).



Traffic signs tell you about traffic rules, special hazards, where you are, how to get where you are going and where services are available.

The shape and color of traffic signs give clues to the type of information they provide:

  • Regulation Signs usually are white rectangles with black lettering or symbols, but some are different shapes, and some may use red letters or symbols.
  • Warning Signs usually are yellow and diamond-shaped, with black lettering or symbols.
  • Destination Signs are green with white letters and symbols.
  • Service Signs are blue with white letters and symbols.

Know the signs shown below and what they mean. You will be asked about them on your written test.

Here are descriptions of the most common traffic signs and what they mean:


stop sign  Stop Sign

COLOR: Red, with white letters.

MEANING: Come to a full stop, yield the right-of-way to vehicles and pedestrians in or approaching the intersection. Go when it is safe. You must come to a stop before the stop line, if there is one. If not, you must stop before entering the crosswalk. (See "Stop and Crosswalk Lines" under the "Pavement Markings" section of this chapter.) If there is no stop line or crosswalk, you must stop before entering the intersection, at the point nearest the intersection that gives you a view of traffic on the intersecting roadway.


yield sign  Yield Signs

COLOR: Red and white, with red letters.

MEANING: Slow down as you approach the intersection. Prepare to stop and yield the right-of-way to vehicles and pedestrians in or approaching the intersection. You must come to a full stop at a YIELD sign if traffic conditions require it. When you approach a YIELD sign, check carefully for traffic, and be prepared to stop.


regulation signs  Regulation Signs

COLOR: White, with black and/or red letters or symbols.

MEANING: These signs give information about rules for traffic direction, lane use, turning, speed, parking, and other special requirements.

Some regulation signs have a red circle with a slash over a symbol indicating that an action, such as a right turn, is not allowed, or that certain vehicles are restricted from the road. Rectangular white signs with black or red letters or symbols are clues to be alert for special rules.


warning signs  Warning Signs

COLOR: Yellow, with black letters or symbols.

MEANING: You are approaching an especially hazardous location or a place where there is a special rule, as shown in the sample signs. Sometimes a warning sign is combined with a rectangular yellow and black "recommended speed" sign. This means reduced speed is advised in that area.


railroad crossing warning sign  Railroad Crossing Warning Sign

COLOR: Yellow with black letters "RR" and "X" symbol.

MEANING: There is a railroad crossing ahead. Use caution, and be prepared to stop. If you are following a bus or truck toward a railroad crossing, be careful. Most buses and some trucks must stop at railroad crossings. (See "Railroad Crossing Signals" later in this chapter.)


work zone signs  Work Area Signs

COLOR: Orange, with black letters or symbols.

MEANING: People are working on or near the roadway, and traffic may be controlled by a flag person. A work area speed limit as low as 25 MPH (40 km/h) may be posted. Even if no speed limit is posted, you must drive at a reduced speed through the work zone, and you must always obey flag persons. These illustrations show some of the signals a flag person will use. Know and obey them.


flag woman - stop



flag woman - proceed



flag woman - slow



destination signs  Destination Signs

COLOR: Green, with white lettering.

MEANING: Show direction and distance to various locations.


route signs  Route Signs

COLOR: Varied.

MEANING: Indicate interstate, U.S., state or county routes. The shape tells you what type of route you are on. The sample signs, left to right, are for state, U.S., and interstate routes. When planning a trip, use a highway map to decide which routes to take. During the trip, watch for destination signs so you will not get lost, or have to turn or stop suddenly.


service signs  Service Signs

COLOR: Blue, with white letters or symbols.

MEANING: Show the location of services, such as rest areas, gas stations, hospitals and campgrounds.


Traffic Signals  traffic signal light


Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are usually red, yellow and green from top to bottom, or left to right. At some intersections, there are single red, yellow or green lights. Some traffic lights are steady, others flash. Some are circular, and some are arrows.

State law requires that if the traffic lights or controls are out of service or malfunctioning when you approach an intersection, you must come to a stop as you would for a stop sign.  You must then proceed according to the rules of right of way, unless you are directed to proceed by a traffic officer.

Here is what various traffic lights mean:

Steady Red: Stop. Do not go until the light is green. If a green arrow is shown with the red light, you may go only in the direction of the arrow and only if the way is clear.

You may make a right turn at a steady red light after coming to a full stop and yielding the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. You may make a left turn at a steady red light when turning from a one-way road into another one-way road after coming to a full stop and yielding the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

You may not make a turn at a red light if there is a NO TURN ON RED sign posted, or another sign, signal or pavement marking prohibits the turn. Also, turning on a red light is not allowed in New York City unless a sign is posted permitting it.

The driver of a school bus carrying pupils may not turn right on any red light.

flashing red light  Flashing Red: Means the same as a STOP sign: Stop, yield the right-of-way, and go when it is safe.


Red Arrow: Do not go in the direction of the arrow until the red arrow light goes out and a green light or arrow light goes on. A right or left turn on red is not permitted at a red arrow.

Steady Yellow: The light is changing from green to red. Be ready to stop for the red light.

flashing yellow light   Flashing Yellow: Drive with caution.


Yellow Arrow: The protection of a green arrow is ending. If you intend to turn in the direction of the arrow, be prepared to stop.


steady green light  Steady Green: Go, but yield the right-of-way to other traffic at the intersection as required by law (see Chapter 5).


green arrow  Green Arrow: You may go in the direction of the arrow, but you must yield the right-of-way to other traffic at the intersection as required by law (see Chapter 5.)


Lane Use Control Lights

Special overhead lights are sometimes used to indicate which lanes of a highway may be used at certain times:

Steady Red "X": Do not drive in this lane.

Steady Yellow "X": Move out of this lane.

Flashing Yellow "X": This lane may only be used for a left turn.

Green Arrow: You may use this lane.

Railroad Crossing Signals   railroad crossing signals


Flashing red lights, lowered crossing gates and/or a ringing bell at a railroad crossing mean that you must stop, at least 15 feet (5 m) from the tracks. Do not cross the tracks until the lights and bell have stopped and the crossing gates are all the way up. Do not drive around or under a gate that is being lowered or raised.

Look and listen for trains before crossing any railroad tracks. If an approaching train is near enough or going fast enough to be a danger, you may not cross the tracks, even if there are no signals or the signals are not working.

You may not cross any railroad tracks unless there is room for your vehicle on the other side. If other traffic prevents you from crossing all the way, wait, and cross only when there is room.

School buses with or without passengers, other buses while carrying passengers, and vehicles carrying explosives or flammable cargo must stop at all railroad crossings. Keep this in mind if you are following one of these vehicles.

Pavement Markings

Lines and symbols on the roadway divide lanes and tell you when you may pass other vehicles or change lanes, which lanes to use for turns, and where you must stop for signs or traffic signals. The arrows on these illustrations show the direction of traffic.

Edge and Lane Lines

Solid lines along the side of the road tell you where its edge is - where the travel lane ends and the road's shoulder begins. It is illegal to drive across the edge line, except when directed to do so by a police officer or other authorized official. An edge line which slants toward the center of the road shows that the road is narrower ahead.

Lines separating lanes of traffic moving in the same direction are white. Lines separating traffic moving in opposite directions are yellow. There may be two lines between lanes, and lines may be solid or broken. Read Chapter 6 for the rules on passing other vehicles.

lane markings for lane ends


Here are what some lane lines mean:

Single broken line: You may pass other vehicles or change lanes if you can do so safely and not interfere with traffic.

single broken line - passing permitted

Solid line with broken line: If you're on the side with the solid line, you may not pass other vehicles or cross the line except to make a left turn into a driveway. If you're on the side with the broken line, you may pass if it is safe to do so and your driving will not interfere with traffic.

solid line - broken line

Double solid lines: You may not pass, or change lanes. You may not cross the lines except when turning left to enter or leave the highway (e.g., to or from a driveway or to perform a U-turn see Chapter 5).

double solid lines

Single solid line:
You may pass other vehicles or change lanes, but you should do so only if obstructions in the road make it necessary or traffic conditions require it.

single solid line

Stop and Crosswalk Lines: At an intersection controlled by a STOP sign, YIELD sign or traffic light, there may be a white stop line painted across the lane, and/or two parallel lines painted across the road, forming a crosswalk. When required to stop because of a sign or light, you must stop before reaching the stop line, if there is one, or the crosswalk. You need only stop at a stop line or crosswalk if required to do so by a light, sign or traffic officer, but be careful to look out for pedestrians at any crosswalk. (See "Pedestrians" in Chapter 11).

stop at stop line   stop at crosswalk

Arrows: Arrows show which lanes you must use. In this illustration, for example, you may turn right only from the right lane. If you are going straight, you must use the left lane. You should be in the proper lane before reaching the solid line which separates the lanes.

lane markings - arrows

Diamond Symbol:
This symbol is used to designate reserved lanes for buses, HOV's (High Occupancy Vehicles) such as car-pools and van-pools, bicycles, or other special vehicles. You may not enter and use these lanes unless your vehicle complies with the occupancy or other requirements of the accompanying regulatory signs for the times the special conditions are in effect. When used to designate reserved lanes on city streets, sections of the solid white line separating the diamond lanes from the regular lanes may be replaced by dashed white lines. In these locations, non-HOV's may enter the HOV lane if they make a right turn at the next intersection. Bus lanes and HOV lanes are used to promote the most efficient use of limited street and highway capacity by assuring that vehicles with the highest priority move the fastest.

lane markings - hov lane

Traffic Officers

Directions given by traffic officers take precedence over signs, signals or pavement markings. If a traffic officer signals you to stop at a green light, for example, you must stop. If an officer signals you to drive through a red light or stop sign, you must do so.

Among those authorized to direct traffic are police officers, peace officers such as on-duty auxiliary or fire police, highway work area flag persons, and school crossing guards.  


Before going on to Chapter 5, make sure you can identify the signs in this chapter and know what they mean. Also, make sure you can answer these questions:

  • A regulation sign is usually what shape?

  • What is the usual color and shape of a warning sign?

  • What color and shape is a destination sign?

  • What must you do at a STOP sign?

  • What color and shape is a railroad crossing warning sign?

  • What would you do when facing each of the following: a flashing red light, flashing yellow light, steady yellow light, a red light with a green arrow?

  • What does it mean if an edge line slants in toward the center of the road?

  • What do each of these types of lines mean: single broken, single solid, double solid, solid and broken together?

  • If an intersection has crosswalk lines but no STOP line, where would you stop for a red light at that intersection?

  • What type of pavement marking is used to show you which lane you must use for a turn?

  • Which of the following must you obey over the other three: steady red light, flashing red light, STOP sign, police officer?


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