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Understanding Road Signs

Although they can come in different colours and shapes and can be permanent, temporary or even on a moving vehicle, New Zealand road signs still aren't difficult to understand. In fact, most of the signs positioned on Kiwi roads are universal symbols and shapes that are used all around the world.

FULL ROAD SIGN LISTING: This article covers the basics of the three main types of signs. If you want to revise all New Zealand road signs, click here.

Almost all road signs fit into three main groups, these are:

There are examples of each type of sign below but these are only a select sample of the many different signs on NZ roads. View all the road signs here.

Important: Local road authorities may have special rules for drivers in specific areas. These restrictions should be indicated by special signs or markings and must be obeyed in that area.

Compulsory signs

Compulsory signs tell you what you absolutely must or must not do.

They are usually red or blue in colour.

Warning signs

Warning signs are there to alert drivers to a specified hazard on the road ahead or in the area. They warn you so that you can be careful for your own safety, the safety of other road users, the safety of nearby animals or the safety of road workers carrying out maintenance.

There are two types of warning signs:

Both types of warning signs are usually diamond shaped.

Permanent warning signs

Permanent warning signs are yellow and black. They are usually placed at the beginning of an area of particular caution.

Temporary warning signs

Temporary warning signs are orange and black. They are always placed at the beginning of an area where extra caution is presently required.

Information signs

Information signs inform you of relevant information for your journey, like distances to the next town or state highway numbers. They are generally rectangular and come in a range of colours and sizes.

Vehicle mounted signs

When oversize vehicles or vehicles carrying very large loads use public roads, they must have special signage mounted on them. They may also be accompanied by pilot vehicles to warn other road users to be careful.

If you see one of these signs or a pilot vehicle when you are driving, you should slow down till it's safe to resume a normal speed. If the oversize vehicle or load is coming towards you, you may need to pull over and stop to allow it to pass by your vehicle.