The learner driver’s guide to Irish Traffic Signs

If you’ve ever travelled on an Irish road (either as a driver or a passenger), you’ll know that there’s almost always a traffic sign in your field of vision giving you directions on how to navigate the road safety. Strategically placed along the carriageway, signs tell you what specific rules apply in a given situation, this can include:


  • Informing you of the speed limit.
  • letting you know whether you can overtake.
  • warning you about hazards to watch out for.

Whether driving on an urban street, a motorway or country road, you are guaranteed to encounter dozens of different traffic signs proving vital information about the road ahead. Traffic signs on Irish roads come in different…


  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Symbols
  • Sizes


There are five basic shapes in the traffic signs system. Generally, shapes with smooth curves (circles) convey a friendlier message to road users than shapes with jagged edges and sharp points (octagon and diamond).



Traffic signs in Ireland have eight distinctive colours. Generally, colours are classified into three groups:

  • Warn colours (red – orange – yellow)
  • Cool colours (blue and green)
  • Neutral colours (brown – white – grey)



In order for traffic signs to be effective, a standard shape and colour code is used to enable a motorist to identify a sign from a distance. Each category of signs has its own design feature and function depending on the colour of the background and the shape of the sign. The general principles and rules are quite straightforward…..just learn what each shape and colour combination means.



There are a few exceptions to the shape and colour code……this is to give greater prominence to some important signs. Even if these signs are obscured due to fog or snow and can’t be read, the unique shape of the sign alone will enable a motorist to recognise an impending hazard ahead.



There is a wide range of signs in different categories in the traffic signs systems which use simplified symbols instead of written instructions. These symbols are used on the road network to…..

  • enable motorists to instantly recognise and understand a sign when travelling at speed.
  • overcome any language barriers (foreign tourists or resident drivers whose first language isn’t Irish or English).
  • mainly standardise signs throughout Europe.




Traffic signs on Irish roads come in many different sizes depending on the message that needs to be relayed. This can range from…..


  • huge signs spanning the width of three motorway lanes and delivering multiple directions – warnings – lane guidance to…
  • much smaller signs on single carriageway roads with a single image.


Why it’s important to learn your traffic signs:

While, technically, you don’t need to know every traffic sign in order to pass your driving test, you’ll almost certainly be a more confident and safer driver if you recognise and understand as many signs as possible. If you know what the signs mean and follow them correctly, you’ll be less likely to commit a driving offence or cause a collision.

Other benefits for knowing and understanding your traffic signs:

  • Better prepared to handle different driving conditions as the traffic signs will reveal if the roads are hazardous.
  • Make it easier to drive in areas in which you haven’t been before as the signs will provide local information about the roads on which you’re driving.
  • Less likely to get lost and will get to your destination quicker.



What’s inside…….IRISH TRAFFIC SIGNS – the essential guide? 

This unique definitive guide has full colour illustrated signs, signals and road markings presented in an easy-to-follow layout with different types of signs divided into individual categories and sub-categories. It also provides…..

  • Detailed explanation for each kind of traffic sign likely to be encountered on Irish roads.
  • Discuss the general principles and rules regarding the shapes and colours of traffic signs.
  • Explores the most common and the more obscure symbols in the Irish traffic signs system. Plus…details on over two hundred bespoke signs. 
This comprehensive guide will provide new drivers with the necessary information on how to identify and understand the majority of signs, signals and markings likely to be seen on Irish roads. This insight and knowledge will also help to:

  • Complement your driving lessons or EDT programme.
  • Know how to react safely to a particular sign when on a driving lesson or practise session.
  • Improve your chances of passing both the driving test theory exam and partial “L” test. Plus…dedicated (motorway section) when you switch from “L” plates to “N” plates. 

Roads in Ireland are festooned with traffic signs. You may not be aware that there are actually eight types of signs in the traffic signs system.

Traffic signs, signals and road markings are divided into three basic categories: signs that must be obeyed, signs that give warnings and signs that give information


These signs are divided into several groups:

  • upright post signs
  • road markings
  • traffic signals


Upright post signs can come in various shapes:

  • circular, octagonal, triangular or rectangular


And generally come in two formats:

  • a white background with a red border and black symbols, letters or numbers
  • blue background with white symbols or letters

These signs imply a prohibitory or mandatory traffic regulation. They indicate what you “must” or “must not” do as a road user in accordance with road traffic law. All road users must, at all times, obey these signs.



Road surface markings can be defined as lines, patterns, symbols and words and are designed to inform, control, guide and warn all road users on regulations, restrictions, procedures and hazards. Currently, there are over sixty road surface markings in the traffic signs system.



Traffic signals guide, warn and regulate the flow and orderly movement of vehicular traffic, of pedestrians and of cyclists. Everybody is probably familiar with the different lights and symbols on traffic signals but here’s a quick reminder.

Traffic signals in Ireland have a three-phase sequence which changes in a set cycle:

  • RED
  • RED

Note: Various types of pedestrian and cycle crossings have a different colour sequence to those used at normal traffic signals.

When approaching a junction or crossing, watch out for the following:

  • advanced stop lines
  • solid green filter arrows
  • flashing amber filter arrows
  • static regulatory signs
  • flashing amber beacons or signals


Special traffic signals

In some locations, special signals are used to control traffic at opening or swing bridges or at other special sites such as level crossings or fire stations.

They may be either:

  • normal traffic signals or
  • double flashing red signals


School crossings

A pair of alternating amber flashing signals will warn traffic of a school crossing point ahead. In some busy locations electronic speed limit signs may also be present.




These signs are divided into two groups:

  • permanent signs
  • temporary signs


Permanent warning signs are diamond or rectangular shaped, featuring a black border with black symbols or text on a yellow background. They provide advance warning of particular hazards ahead to all road users.

Temporary warning signs are commonly seen at roadworks and are generally diamond or rectangular shaped, featuring a black border with black symbols or text on an orange background. They are provided to warn, instruct and guide road users safely through or around work sites. At present, there are over a 150 permanent and temporary warning symbols displayed on Irish traffic signs.


As the name suggests, these signs give information about location, direction and distance.Information signs are generally divided into three groups:

  • motorway
  • all-purpose roads
  • tourist information 

Motorway signs generally have a blue background with white letters, numbers or symbols. Signs may be found overhead or at the side of the road. Currently, there are over sixty different types of signs and symbols on an Irish motorway.

Roads other than motorways are known as all-purpose roads. These are classified as national primary roads, national secondary roads, regional and local roads. Direction signs on national roads are designated by the letter “N” and have a green background with yellow route numbers and white lettering.

Direction signs on regional and local roads are designated by the letters “R” and “L” and have a white background with black route numbers and lettering. When travelling on narrow and winding rural roads pay special attention to warning signs as you may encounter:


  • dangerous corners and bends
  • bumps and hollows
  • sharp depressions
  • agricultural traffic
  • pedestrians and cyclists
  • livestock and wildlife crossing


Tourist information signs are provided for guidance to sites of public recreation or cultural interest and have a brown background with white text and symbols. They are generally stand-alone signs but, in some situations, brown panels may be incorporated into other direction signs. Symbols are often used to indicate the type of attraction, facility or service available. Where the full name and symbol have been shown on advance direction signs, subsequent signs at junctions further along the route may only show the corresponding symbol. Currently, there are over 75 tourist information symbols displayed on Irish traffic signs.


Parking signs can be divided into two groups:

  • on-street
  • off-street 

On-street parking

On-street parking in cities and towns in Ireland normally has a pay & display or a disc parking scheme in operation. Signs are normally adjacent to the carriageway and they indicate the type of parking that is in place, the times and days on which it operates and the duration of parking time allowed. In busy cities and towns parking restriction signs, road markings and information plates may be present.


Off-street parking

Signs that indicate off-street parking facilities, such as car parks, generally have a white background with black text and a blue and white “P” symbol. Direction signs for off-street parking are usually static but electronic signs may be provided in some locations.


A variable message sign (VMS) is an electronic traffic sign that is usually located on various sections of motorway or dual carriageway and positioned either overhead or at the side of the road. Information can be relayed in real time and can warn motorists of events such as traffic conditions and journey times, incidents and lane closures, roadworks and alternative routes, road conditions and weather reports. Always pay attention to variable message signs and follow any instructions or advice that may be given.

Share This