Australian road signs are something we see every day but likely don’t spend a lot of time thinking about besides the basic ‘Stop’ and ‘Give Way’.
Whether you’re on a back road in the middle of nowhere or a major metropolitan freeway, road signage is an integral part of keeping Australian roads safe.
While many governing laws and regulations can differ across states and territories, Australian road signage is administered by national guidelines, meaning there are very few differences between road signs throughout the country.
While it can be easy to simply lump all Australian road signage into one category, there are actually differences in how signs are managed and used depending on their purpose.
Below, we will take a look into the meanings of four of the main types of Australian road signs – the regulatory, information, roadworks and warning signs.
Regulatory signs indicate what you can and cannot do on the road, and their instruction must be followed.
They are easy to recognise as they are usually combinations of white, black, red and yellow.
The most common regulatory signs you will come across will be speed limit signs, including school zone and shared zone signs.
‘Stop’, ‘Give Way’, ‘Pedestrian Crossing’, ‘Keep Left’, ‘No Entry’ and ‘One Way’ signs are all regulatory signs, as are the ‘Slow’ and ‘Stop’ signs held by traffic controllers in road work areas.
A good rule of thumb is that if you can receive a fine for not following the road sign’s instructions, it’s probably a regulatory sign!
Information signs are recognised by their green, white and black colours and provide helpful details that may assist road users.
They will generally inform drivers of what’s coming up ahead – for example, the start or end of a freeway, an exit or a dead end.
They also tell drivers about bicycle lanes, truck lanes, and bus lanes, and how far they are from the next few towns or areas.
Roadwork signage is temporary but must still be obeyed – this means that even if you know the road like the back of your hand, you should always be vigilant in looking out for signs.
When you see the ‘Roadwork Ahead’ sign, that is your cue to start slowing down and looking for further instructional signs, as well as to look for any potential hazards.
You must follow signals from any traffic controller that is present, as well as giving way to all workers on the site.
Roadworks often mean you will need to slow down, usually to 40km/ph, and these speed limits are enforceable – meaning if you fail to follow them, you can be fined.
Accompanying signage can also alert you to hazards such as loose stones, road or lane closures, upcoming temporary traffic lights and a lack of road markings, so it’s important to be aware of what signs are around you in roadworks!
Warning signs are easily recognisable thanks to their black and yellow colouring and tend to be a diamond shape.
Some road warning signs may be red, such as a railway crossing sign, or a light green colour, such as a warning for pedestrians or children that may be in the area.
Warning signs use diagrams and symbols to alert you of potential hazards or dangers up ahead – for example, a black cross means a crossroads is ahead, or a black T means the road ahead is ending.
They will also signal curves or sharp turns ahead, giving you the opportunity to appropriately adjust your driving in a timely manner.
In Australia, road warning signs are also used to inform drivers of animals that may be in the area, such kangaroos, koalas or wombats, which are known to wander onto the road and can cause significant damage to cars if struck while driving.
If you want to learn more about Australian road signs, consider visiting the state or territory’s relevant road authority.
You can find out more, along with some handy links, at the Australian Government’s Road and Transport Authority’s website.