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What Do Circular Road Signs Mean?

by Elsa Stringer

The shape of road signs carries a good deal of significance, and there are nine shapes used in the U.S. to convey important information to motorists. These nine shapes are also colored in a specific manner to make their intention more quickly recognizable.

For instance a red, octagonal-shaped sign is instantly understood to be a Stop sign, even if there weren’t any accompanying lettering within the sign itself. That is the whole purpose of using uniform shapes and colors on roadway signs, making them quickly recognizable so that drivers have more time to react to them, and so they can be clearly understood.

The general rule of thumb about the shape of a roadway sign is that the more sides it has, the more urgent is the message it carries. Again, with the Stop sign having eight sides, it is intended to relate how critical it is that drivers stop immediately, so as to avoid a collision with other drivers in the area.

In the case of a circular sign, it is meant to be understood that the sign has an infinite number of sides, and that the urgency of the message is extreme. As you continue to read below, you’ll see why the message conveyed by a circular road sign is so important, and why an immediate reaction is called for on the part of the driver.

What Does a Circular Road Sign Mean?


A circular road sign is meant to provide advance warning that a railroad crossing is up ahead, and that you should be alert to the possibility of a train crossing the same road that you’re driving on. In most cases, these areas will also have a mechanical arm which drops down whenever a train is approaching, and this arm prevents vehicles from driving through the intersection where the train will be going through. This is not always the case though, so it is incumbent upon the driver to be aware of the presence of any approaching train, and to not attempt to speed through the intersection before the train arrives.

In the past, one of the most dangerous traffic situations possible on roadways were the intersections where railroads and highways met, and there were numerous crashes and fatalities as a result. Of course, nowadays the rail traffic in this country has subsided considerably, and there just aren’t as many active trains on the nation’s railroads.

It’s also true that better safety precautions have been emplaced where railways and highways intersect, so that has reduced the number of accidents as well. However, it’s still important to recognize what the circular sign means, and to take appropriate action when one is encountered, so as to avoid some kind of horrible crash between train and car.

What Should I Do if I See One?


A railroad crossing sign is unmistakable, since it will always be a circular sign, and will generally be colored yellow with black symbols and lettering. The symbol will be a large X, and the lettering will generally be two R’s, which of course stand for ‘railroad’. These signs alert you to the fact that there are railroad tracks up ahead, and that means the first thing you need to do is listen for trains which might be coming from either direction, and look for trains which might be far down the tracks.

You should also be prepared to stop quickly should that become necessary. For safety’s sake, you should expect the train to appear at any time, regardless of time of day. You should never stop your vehicle for any reason while crossing railroad tracks. Keep in mind that by the time a train engineer or conductor can actually see you, it will be too late to try to stop the train. The momentum which any train has during operation, will carry long past the point where brakes are applied in an attempt to stop the moving train.

When traffic at a railway intersection is fairly heavy, you would be well advised to wait on the near side of the tracks until you’re sure you can cross through the intersection without having to stop. You should also keep in mind that trains have the potential to be traveling at a high rate of speed, so if you can’t immediately see a train approaching from either direction, that doesn’t mean there are none in the area.

Any train can suddenly appear, and if you’re not prepared to react quickly, things could go badly for you. It’s always best to use extreme caution whenever you see the circular railroad sign, and you should always expect that there is a train in the area, until you find out that there isn’t.

Purchase High-Quality Road Signs


Circular railroad crossing signs can make it much safer in your neighborhood for drivers proceeding through an intersection where a train might be expected to cross. If you have need of any circular railroad crossing signs, or any other type of traffic control signs or devices, please visit here at Worksafe Traffic Control Industries, where we offer the finest in traffic control devices, supporting hardware, and accessories.