About signs

Main types of signs

Most of the signs you will see on New Zealand roads are international symbolic signs. This means they use the same shapes and symbols as traffic signs all over the world.

Symbolic signs are used because they are quick to read and easy for all drivers to understand.

New Zealand's signs are generally made of reflective material, making them easier to read at night.

The three types of sign

The signs on our roads can be divided into three types:

  1. compulsory signs
  2. warning signs
  3. information signs

You must be able to recognise and understand each type of sign.

Some examples of these signs are shown on below.

Note: the examples shown are only a small sample of the symbolic signs used on our roads. They are intended to familiarise you with the three main types of symbolic sign rather than introduce you to all of the signs you will see when driving.


Road authorities (for example, local councils) may have special rules for road users in specific areas. These restrictions should be indicated by signs or markings.

Compulsory signs

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

They are usually red or blue.

Turn right sign

Turn right
Keep going straight ahead sign

Keep going
straight ahead
Keep left sign

Keep left
5 minute loading zone sign

Five minute loading zone
sign for goods vehicles
Bus park only sign

Parking for buses only,
no time limit
No entry sign

You must not drive
into this road
No left turn sign

You must not
turn left
No U-turn sign

You must not
make a U-turn
Stop sign

You must stop
and then give way
Heavy vehicles prohibited sign

Heavy vehicles prohibited (not allowed) on a section of road
Class C sign

This is the road classification sign for a Class C road. Heavy vehicles can drive on this road only to deliver or collect goods or passengers along the road
4.6 metre clearance sign

The red bordered compulsory sign tells you that you have a clearance under these cables of 4.6 metres
Note: this multiple sign can apply to all vehicles, not just heavy vehicles

Some compulsory signs have red borders.

Keep left unless passing

You must keep left
unless passing
Bus lane

Bus lane that can also
be used by cycles,
motorcycles, mopeds
Heavy vehicles max length sign

Maximum length for a
heavy vehicle is 9.2 metres
Bus only

Bus lane that can only
be used by buses
Transit lane

Transit lane, which can only be used
by passenger service vehicles, and vehicles
carrying at least the number of people
displayed on the sign (eg T2 means two or
more people, T3 means three or more people),
or cycles, motorcycles and mopeds.
Heavy vehicle bridge limits

Heavy vehicle bridge limits eg maximum axle and gross vehicle weights and maximum speed limit

Warning signs

Warning signs alert you to a particular hazard on the road ahead. They warn you to be careful for your own safety, the safety of other road users or the safety of road workers carrying out maintenance.

There are two types of warning signs:

  1. those that warn you of a permanent hazard
  2. those that warn you of a temporary hazard.

Both types of sign are usually diamond shaped.

Permanent warning signs

Permanent warning signs are yellow and black.


Slippery surface - see responsible driving for information about auxiliary brakes
Road narrows

Road narrows
Trucks use low gear sign

This warning sign advises trucks to use a low gear to keep the vehicle under control (when going downhill) - see multiple hazards for more about descending steep hills
Heavy vehicle 65 km/h curve sign

This warning sign lets you know that if you are driving a heavy (or high-sided) vehicle, it could tip over as you drive around a curve. You need to keep your speed to 65 km/h or less to be safe - see stability for more information
Electric cables sign

The yellow warning sign lets you know there are electric cables overhead
Caution wide vehicles sign

Two permanent warning signs combined – narrow bridge with warning for wide vehicles

Temporary warning signs

Temporary warning signs are orange and black.

Road works sign

Road works
Left lane closed sign

Left lane closed
Slips sign

Gravel surface sign

Gravel surface
Stop on request sign

Stop on request
Other hazard sign

Other hazard
Note: this sign will always be displayed with another sign explaining the hazard, eg ‘Flooding’


Note: From 2006 to 2012, 569 trucks rolled over

Information signs

Information signs give you useful information, for example, the distance to the next town. They are all rectangular, but come in a range of different colours and sizes.

Turn left at any time with care sign

You may turn left, but first
give way to any pedestrians
and vehicles
 Highway distance sign

Shows the state highway
number and the distance in
kilometres to places listed
Directions sign
Shows directions to places
at the next intersection
Direction to information centre sign
Shows the way to the nearest
information centre
Highway directions sign
Shows the state highway number
and direction to places listed
Heavy vehicle bypass

This information sign, usually
seen in urban areas, indicates
a town/city centre bypass
Heavy vehicles no engine brakes sign

This information sign is also found in
urban areas and asks you to minimise
noise by not using engine brakes
Heavy vehicle bypass

Temporary information sign – roadworks or
construction site access 100 metres ahead


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Last updated: 26 January 2016