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Road markings


Which lane should I take?

It might seem a bit strange to be considering road markings at this point in your training , after all, you have probably been dealing with give way lanes, stop lines, central white lines, etc., since your first lesson.

The idea of this lesson is to consolidate all of your knowledge and to make sure that you understand the important role that road markings play and that you can react correctly to road markings (and any associated signs) without help from your instructor.

Road markings are mostly painted white or yellow. White lines separate streams of traffic; yellow lines and markings prohibit waiting and parking.

A general rule to follow is: 'more paint... more need for caution'.

This section explains the rules relating to some basic road markings and gives examples of 'reading the road' with regard to other markings.

Luckily we don't have markings in the UK like those shown in the picture. This road is in China. Looking at the lane arrows, which lane do you think they want you to drive in?

Road markings during your driving test

During your test the examiner will be expecting you to see road marking and road signs and take the appropriate action to deal with them.

Things the examiner will consider:

  • Observation of signs and markings

  • Correct action on all signs and markings

  • Lane discipline

  • Following the rules for yellow boxes

  • Avoiding hatched areas where appropriate

Centre markings

Road markings

White lines are used to separate streams of traffic. This might be traffic travelling in the same direction in one way systems or on fast roads, or traffic that is travelling in opposite directions.

The 'more paint more caution' rule applies to lines that separate streams of traffic - the longer the lines are, the more potential danger there is. Roads in towns and city centres use the same system of white lines that are found elsewhere: lane lines, hazard lines, stop and give way lines, etc.

White lines

Centre lines of equal length with long gaps between them simply mark the centre of the road. Where the road is marked like this you may overtake if it is safe to do so.

We tend to think of these as 'low hazard' lines.

Hazard lines

Long white lines with short gaps warn of a hazard. On this road the hazard is fairly clear. The low bridge means that large vehicle might approach in the middle of the road. Hazards are not always so obvious.

Hazard Lines

Technically the hazard lines in this picture would allow you to legally overtake. However, the bend would make it dangerous, even if the road was clear. This is why it's important to always read road markings as part of the 'big picture'.



Here we can see hazard lines coupled with a 'SLOW' marking on an open road on the approach to dangerous bends - there is also a lay-by on the right hand side.


Solid lines

When the line nearest you in a double line system is solid, you MUST NOT cross or straddle the lines except to enter an opening on the right. You may cross the line if necessary to pass a stationary vehicle or other obstruction, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse slow vehicle, if their speed is 10mph or slower.


Where there are solid white lines on both sides of the road no one is allowed to overtake or cross the lines except to enter or leave property or to pass obstructions or vehicles with a speed of 10mph or slower..

No parking

Where the line nearest to you in a double white line system is broken you may cross it to overtake if it is safe, provided you can complete the manoeuvre before reaching a solid white line on your side. Double white lines also mean no parking, even if the line on your side is broken.


This arrow indicates that you must move to, or stay on the left hand side because there is a solid line ahead. Never start an overtaking manoeuvre where you see these arrows.


Here the centre markings are 'hatched'. This type of hatching, especially when coupled with a different coloured surface, is to separate traffic streams and increase safety margins. As a general rule, you should avoid driving on the hatched areas edged with broken white lines.

Hatching with solid line

When the hatched area of the road is bounded by a solid line you must not enter the hatched area, except in an emergency.

Speed control markings

Here are some examples of speed control markings that you must be familiar with and able to act on.

Speed limit

Speed limit signs painted onto the road to reinforce the compulsory signs and hazard lines.


These red bars (sometimes yellow) warn you to slow down, often on the approach to roundabouts. The bars are also ridged causing your vehicle to vibrate as you drive on them.


Slow means what it says! There is a problem ahead. Here the slow sign is emphasised by the red tarmac - notice the hatched markings as well.



These white triangles are a warning of speed humps - slow down, even if the hump isn't obvious from a distance.



These 'teeth' give an illusion of reduced road width and are designed to slow traffic down.


Speed cam

While not a warning, these markings are calibration for speed camera photos. If you are exceeding the speed limit when you drive over these markings... It's too late!

Parking restriction markings

Not knowing about these markings could cost you heavy parking fines or even vehicle recovery fees.


Double yellow lines normally mean no parking at any time. These drivers can expect to find a parking ticket on their return. Whether double single, or broken lines, always check the parking restriction plates for details of when you can park.

Yellow lines

More double yellow lines, park here and the tram won't be able to get around you.


Yellow zig-zag lines are used at school entrances. You must keep these areas clear to make sure the safety of children.

Red Route

Red Routes are designated by double red lines. Park here and your car will be removed immediately - it will cost a fine and a recovery fee to get it back. Red Routes are designed to keep traffic flowing on major routes.

Other Markings

A sample of some other markings that you might encounter

Keep clear

It should be fairly obvious what these markings mean. Like yellow boxes (next page)they are designed to keep entrances and junctions clear. This picture shows the markings keeping a side road


Keep clear markings again, this time used to keep entrances to premises clear.

Edge markings

Edge markings show the side of the road. This can be useful at night on open roads. Where the edge marking is solid, it denotes a hazard such as a bend, narrow section of road, etc.



These marking help drivers of high vehicles negotiate low bridges safely. They do not affect car drivers other than to act as a warning that large vehicles may be in the middle of the road.



This is an information sign showing that you are entering an area where extra charges are levied for using the road (this one is in Central London). Also notice the Red Route lines.


If you drive through Wales, sooner or later you will come across dual-language signs and markings.

Bus lane

Bus lanes are usually reserved for buses, taxis and cyclists. Look for signs that tell you when a bus lane is operating and when you can drive in it.

Lane markings

This picture shows arrows on the road surface advising drivers about which lane to take. If you take a wrong lane by mistake and cannot move back to the correct lane, carry on with the turn in the direction of the arrows and then find somewhere to turn around to return to the junction and continue your journey.

Nobody's perfect

The workmen on these roads probably had a bit of explaining to do!

School marking incorrectly spelt


Yellow box junctions

Yellow box

Box junctions, marked with yellow cross-hatching, were introduced in 1964, the first one being in London. The aim was to prevent traffic blocking junctions when it could not proceed and thus prevent 'gridlock' on the road.

Yellow (and occasionally white) boxes are used anywhere where the road needs to be kept clear. The example on the right shows a yellow box being used to keep a junction clear.

Normally you will yellow box markings in towns or busy thoroughfares. The markings can also be found outside police, fire ambulance stations or hospitals where there is an access road forming a junction with the main road.

How the box works when turning right

The basic principle that applies to yellow boxes is that you must not enter the box unless there is enough room to exit. It is an offence to block a box junction - the only exception to the rule is explained below.

The first diagram below shows a car at point 'A' wishing to turn right into road 'C'. As long as road 'C' is clear, it is OK for the car to move to point 'B'. In other words, 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.

Right turn with yellow box

In the situation shown in this second diagram, no one would be able to enter the yellow box because the exits are not clear.

Yellow box - no exit

Road markings Quiz ...

Click here to open your 'road markings' quiz page for printing.

You will find all the references for your answers on this page.

Take your completed quiz pages along to your next driving lesson and discuss your answers with your instructor.