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Understanding illuminated signals on motorways

The location of the signs and signals that you see on motorway itself tells you some information: who it applies to.

Signs at the edge of the road will apply to all drivers, whilst those that appear above a specific lane for instance from an overhead gantry will apply only to drivers in that particular lane.

Ordinarily these signals are switched off in normal road conditions and just come on when there is some sort of problem affecting normal driving conditions: this could be an accident but in many cases it is due to volume of traffic or perhaps roadwords that are being conducted somewhere along the motorway.

There are amber lights on these signs - two at the top and two at the bottom, and these flash in sequence to help provide a visual clue to you that the sign is on and providing information that you need to read, understand, and react to accordingly adjusting your driving as necessary to conform to the message on the sign. If you see flashing red signals, this means you must stop unless you are able to join another lane.

All of the signs for motorway driving are listed in the highway code and you should take the time to read through them carefully and learn and understand what they all mean. Whilst some of them are obvious - for instance if it says 'Fog' or 'End', not all of them are so obvious and if you can get confused about what the different indicators with regard to which lane you should be in mean, then it is worth learning them.

Some of these signs may crop up in your driving theory test. You can use our sign learning tool for help learning them. Also be sure to sign in and go through all the theory test questions in advance so that you know inside out what the signs mean that might crop up in your driving theory test.

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