Road markings and tarmac signage explained

Drivers are targeted with information both from inside and outside the car. Within the vehicle they listen to music, radio traffic information and satellite navigation instructions. While outside the driver is visually bombarded by the many thousands of eye level signage designed to inform and instruct the driver.

Due to eye level information overload, experts believe drivers often ignore what is painted on the tarmac below their wheels. However, some drivers often seem unaware of the significance of road markings. Research has shown that eye-level signs are what drivers give credence to with some ignoring ground level road markings altogether. 

While some road markings are laid down to help enforce traffic laws, most are painted to help keep all road users safe. In recent years there has been an explosion in the use of road markings, coupled with an increase in coloured tarmac to warn drivers of dangers ahead or to distinguish between areas.

A basic understanding of the every day use of painted road signage will help to avoid confusion or hesitation when confronted by road signage. One rule of thumb, someone has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to lay down these markings, they are for the most part, for all our safety.

The four pictures below illustrate this massive increase in ground level signage; drivers can become confused and disorientated when trying to assimilate this painted information.

Road Markings across the Carriageway

We hope the enclosed illustrations will be useful but we urge you to also read the Highway code for a deeper understanding of road markings.


Vehicle Stop line at Stop sign


Vehicle Stop line at Traffic lights or Police control 


Give way to Traffic at Major roads and can also be used at Mini roundabouts


Give way to Traffic from the Right at Roundabout


Give way to Traffic from the Right on a Mini Roundabout

Road Markings along the Carriageway

Continuious White Edge Line

Most common next to Grass verges on the edges' of carriageways, other than at junctions, exits from private drives and lay-bys. Used on the left-hand side of the road and alongside the Central Reservation of Dual Carriageway roads.

Broken White Lines

These lines mark the centre of the road

When this line lenghtens and the gap shortens, it means there is a hazard ahead. Do not cross it to overtake or to turn off unless you can see the road ahead is clear.

Double white lines where the line nearest to you is broken.

This means you may cross the lines to overtake if it is SAFE provided you can complete the manoeuvre before reaching a solid white line on your side. White direction arrows on the road indicate that you need to get back on to your side of the road before you reach the solid white line.

Double White lines where the line nearest to you is solid

This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. However, You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16km/h) or less.

Hatched Markings

Junction Diagonal white lines (hatched markings) bounded by broken lines may be used in the centre of the road to separate opposing flows of traffic. They are often provided at junctions to protect traffic turning right. They may also be used on the approach to a central traffic island or the start of a dual carriageway. Hatched markings with a single, broken boundary line may be used at the edge of the road or next to the central reservation of a dual carriageway.

You should not enter any hatched area bounded by a broken line unless it is safe to do so.

Part of the carriageway where traffic passes in the same direction on either side of the chevron marking. The continuous boundary line means that vehicles must not enter the area except in an emergency. This marking is used where slip roads leave and join motorways and many dual carriageway roads. It is also used for segregated left-turn lanes at roundabouts.


Part of the carriageway where traffic passes in the same direction on either side of the chevron marking. Vehicles should not enter the area unless safe to do so. This marking is likely to be found in one-way streets with central islands and where an exit lane leaves at a junction.

Road Markings along the Carriageway

Waiting Restrictions


No Waiting at Anytime


No Waiting during Sign times


Parking and Waiting times are limited to the duration
specified during the days and times shown.


No Stopping at Anytime


No Stopping during times shown


Parking is limited to the duration specified
during the days and times shown


Only loading may take place at times
shown for 20 minutes maximum

Red Route stopping controls

Red lines are used on some roads instead of yellow lines. In London the double and single red lines used on Red Routes indicate that stopping to park, load/unload or to board and alight from a vehicle (except for a licensed taxi or if you hold a Blue Badge) is prohibited. The red lines apply to the carriageway, pavement and verge.

The times that the red line prohibitions apply are shown on nearby signs, but the double red line ALWAYS means no stopping at any time. On Red Routes you may stop to park, load/unload in specially marked boxes and adjacent signs specify the times and purposes and duration allowed. A box MARKED IN RED indicates that it may only be available for the purpose specified for part of the day (e.g. between busy peak periods). A box MARKED IN WHITE means that it is available throughout the day.


On the kerb or at the edge of the carriageway

Loading restrictions on roads other than Red Routes

Yellow marks on the kerb or at the edge of the carriageway indicate that loading or unloading is prohibited at the times shown on the nearby black and white plates. You may stop while passengers board or alight. If no days are indicated on the signs the restrictions are in force every day including Sundays and Bank Holidays.


Lengths of road reserved for vehicles loading and unloading are indicated by a white 'bay' marking with the words 'Loading Only' and a sign with the white on blue 'trolley' symbol. This sign also shows whether loading and unloading is restricted to goods vehicles and the times at which the bay can be used. If no times or days are shown it may be used at any time. Vehicles may not park here if they are not loading or unloading.


   No loading                 No loading at the            Loading only
      Anytime                     time shown

Other Road Marking Signs

For pupil safety

The yellow 'zig-zag' keep clear road markings outside schools are a common feature and are there for the safety of pupils.   These road markings help protect pupils by giving them clear sightlines when crossing roads outside their school. They also create clear sightlines for passing motorists.



Stopping is forbidden at bus stops where a large yellow bay is marked with a double or thick yellow line marking along the kerbside. This restriction usually applies at all times, but there will be a sign attached to the bus stop giving full details of restrictions.

Bus lanes can be coloured and are primarily for the use of buses although some councils allow Motorcycles, cycles, and taxi use.

Box junctions.

These have criss-cross yellow lines painted on the road. You MUST  NOT enter the box until your exit road or lane is clear. However, you may enter the box and wait when you want to turn right, and are only stopped from doing so by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right. At signalled roundabouts you MUST NOT enter the box unless you can cross over it completely without stopping.

Take extra care at Giveway junctions. Highway Code Rule 170

At Giveway Junctions, You Should:

  1. Watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, powered wheelchairs/mobility scooters and pedestrians as they are not always easy to see. Be aware that they may not have seen or heard you if you are approaching from behind.
  2. Watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way.
  3. Watch out for long vehicles which may be turning at a junction ahead; they may have to use the whole width of the road to make the turn.

    KEEP CLEAR markings are used to indicate to drivers where the highway should be kept clear of waiting or parked vehicles. The purpose of this is to allow access to side roads or businesses and private entrances. "KEEP CLEAR" markings are advisory and as well as being used to allow access to side roads, etc. they are also used at points on a road where it is appropriate and safer for pedestrians to cross.

    Road markings and tarmac signage explained

    Tips and Advice - Article No51 RoadDriver 2010





















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