Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals

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Convention on Road Signs and Signals
Ratifications and Signatories as of 2011
  Signed, but not ratified
  Uses the SADC-RTSM
Signed 8 November 1968
Location Vienna
Effective 6 June 1978
Condition Ratification by 15 states
Signatories 35
Parties 64
Depositary UN Secretary-General
Languages Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish

The Convention on Road Signs and Signals, commonly known as the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, is a multilateral treaty designed to increase road safety and aid international road traffic by standardising the signing system for road traffic (road signs, traffic lights and road markings) in use internationally.

This convention was agreed upon by the United Nations Economic and Social Council at its Conference on Road Traffic in Vienna 7 October to 8 November 1968, was concluded in Vienna on 8 November 1968 and came into force on 6 June 1978. This conference also produced the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which complements this legislation by standardising international traffic laws.

The convention revised and substantially extended the earlier 1949 Geneva Protocol on Road Signs and Signals,[1] itself based in turn on the 1931 Geneva Convention concerning the Unification of Road Signals.[2]

Amendments, including new provisions regarding the legibility of signs, priority at roundabouts and new signs to improve safety in tunnels were adopted in 2003.

Both the Vienna Convention and the Geneva Protocol reflected a common consensus on road traffic signs that evolved primarily in Europe in the mid-20th century. Most jurisdictions outside Europe have not adopted either treaty, and maintain their own systems of road traffic signals. For example, the U.S. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) does not follow the symbol policy espoused by the Vienna Convention; for example signs for speed limits and forbidden parking are among the most visible differences. In order to make it accepted in as many countries as possible, the convention allows some variations, for example danger warning signs can have triangular or square diamond shape and road markings can be white or yellow.

A competing convention called the SADC-RTSM, provided by the Southern African Development Community, is used by 7 countries in southern Africa. It follows many of the similar rules and principles as in the Vienna Convention.


Road signs

In article 2 the convention classes all road signs into a number of categories (A – H):

The convention then lays out precise colours, sizes and shapes for each of these classes of sign:

Class of sign Shape Ground Border Size Symbol Examples
Danger warning sign Equilateral triangle White or yellow Red 0.9 m (large), 0.6 m (small) Black or dark blue UK traffic sign 559.svg Iceland road sign A21.11.svg
Diamond Yellow Black 0.6 m (large), 0.4 m (small) Black or dark blue New Zealand road sign W14-6 L.svg
Priority signs
Yield sign Inverted equilateral triangle White or yellow Red 0.9 m (large), 0.6 m (small) None Vienna convention sign B1.svg Vienna convention sign B1 (variant).svg
Stop sign Octagon Red White 0.9 m (large), 0.6 m (small) Stop written in white Vienna Convention road sign B2a.svg Stop sign China.svg
Circular White or yellow Red 0.9 m (large), 0.6 m (small) Stop written in blue or black inside red inverted triangle Vienna Convention road sign B2b (v1).svg Cuban Stop Sign.svg
Priority road Diamond White Black 0.5 m (large), 0.35 m (small) Yellow square 2.1 Russian road sign.svg
End priority Diamond White Black 0.5 m (large), 0.35 m (small) Yellow square and grey or black diagonal lines crossing the sign 2.2 Russian road sign.svg
Priority for oncoming traffic Circular White or yellow Red Unspecified Black arrow indicating direction with priority, red arrow indicating direction without Vienna-convention-sign-B5.svg Vienna-convention-sign-B5 (variant).svg
Priority over oncoming traffic Rectangle Blue None Unspecified White arrow indicating direction with priority, red arrow indicating direction without Vienna-convention-sign-B6.svg
Prohibitory signs
Standard prohibitory Circular White or yellow Red 0.6 m (large), 0.4 m (small) Varies Norwegian-road-sign-335.0.svg
Parking prohibitory Circular Blue Red 0.6 m (large), 0.2 m (small) Varies Vorschriftszeichen 13a.svg
End of prohibition Circular White or yellow None 0.6 m (large), 0.4 m (small) Black, blue or grey diagonal line Norwegian-road-sign-337.0.svg
Mandatory signs
Standard mandatory Circular Blue None 0.6 m (large), 0.4 m (small), 0.3 m (very small) Varies, white Italian traffic signs - direzione obbligatoria dritto.svg
Circular White Red 0.6 m (large), 0.4 m (small), 0.3 m (very small) Varies, black Colombia SR-03.svg
Special regulation signs
All signs Rectangular Blue Unspecified Unspecified Varies, white Italian traffic signs - zona residenziale.svg
Light Unspecified Unspecified Varies, Black Vorschriftszeichen 15a.svg
Information, facilities or service signs
All signs Unspecified Blue or green Unspecified Unspecified Varies, on white or yellow rectangle Indonesian Road Sign Info 6d1.png
Direction, position or indication signs
Informative signs Rectangular, sometimes with arrowhead Light Unspecified Unspecified Varies, dark Built-up Area in Iran.png CH-Hinweissignal-Wegweiser «Zeltplatz».svg
Dark Unspecified Unspecified Varies, light Italian traffic signs - avvio zona industriale.svg
Motorways Rectangular Blue or green Unspecified Unspecified Varies, white Nederlands verkeersbord G1.svg CH-Hinweissignal-Autobahn.svg
Temporary Rectangular Yellow or orange Unspecified Unspecified Varies, black Signaux FRANCE K6 1963.svg
Additional panels
All panels Unspecified White or yellow Black, blue or red Unspecified Varies, black or dark blue Panonceau-M11b1.svg
Black or dark blue White or yellow Unspecified Varies, white or yellow Alternate plate blue.svg
Class of sign Shape Ground Border Size Symbol Examples

May be written in English or the national language

It also specifies the symbols and pictograms which may be used, and the orientations in which they may be used. When more than one is available, the same one must be used nationally. All signs, except for those that do not apply at night, must be reflective enough to be seen in darkness with headlights from a distance.

Road markings

The convention also specifies road markings. All such markings must be less than 6 mm high, with cat's eye reflectors no more than 15 mm above the road surface. The road markings shall be white or yellow.[3]

The length and width of markings varies according to purpose, although no exact figures for size are stated; roads in built up areas should use a broken line for lane division, while continuous lines must only be used in special cases, such as reduced visibility or narrowed carriage ways.

All words painted on the road surface should be either of place names, or of words recognisable in most languages, such as "Stop" or "Taxi".

Traffic lights

The Convention specifies the colours for traffic lights and their meanings, and places and purposes lights may be used for, like so:

Type Shape Colour Position Meaning
Non-flashing Plain Traffic lights dark green.svg Green At intersection Proceed
Traffic lights dark yellow.svg Amber At intersection, level crossing, swing bridge, airport, fire station or ferry terminal Stop if possible
Traffic lights dark red.svg Red At intersection Stop
Traffic lights dark red-yellow.svg Red and amber At intersection Signal is about to change (usually to green)
Arrow pointing left Green At intersection Only traffic turning left may proceed
Arrow pointing right Green At intersection Only traffic turning right may proceed
Arrow pointing upwards Green At intersection Only traffic travelling straight ahead may proceed
Arrow pointing downwards Körfältssignal, rakt fram.svg Green Above lane Traffic may continue in lane
Cross (×) Körfältssignal, avstängd.svg Red Above lane Traffic may not enter lane (lane closed)
Arrow pointing diagonally downwards Körfältssignal, vänster.svg Amber or white Above lane Lane closes shortly ahead, change lane in the direction of the arrow
Flashing Plain Järnvägssignal, rött.svg Double Red (alternating) At level crossing, swing bridge, airport, fire station or ferry terminal Stop
YellowFlashTrafficLight.gif Amber (flashing) Anywhere except intersection Proceed with caution
YellowFlashTrafficLight.gif Amber (flashing) At intersection The priority is determined by Sweden road sign B4.svg Priority Route or Italian traffic signs - dare precedenza.svg Yield signs.
Järnvägssignal, vitt.svg Lunar white At crossing Proceed

Red flashing lights may only be used at the locations specified above; any other use of the lights is in breach of the convention. Red lights must be placed on top when lights are stacked vertically, or on the side closest to oncoming traffic if stacked horizontally.

Contracting parties

64 States at October 2015: Albania, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Chile, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

The only countries in Europe that are not signatories to the Convention are Iceland, Ireland, Andorra, Malta, and Liechtenstein; Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vatican City are all signatories but have yet to ratify the Convention.

The only countries in Asia that are not signatories to the Convention are Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, China (including Hong Kong and Macau)[citation needed], Laos, Japan, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia, Yemen, Oman, North Korea, and Afghanistan; Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand are all signatories but have yet to ratify the Convention.

See also


  1. "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2009-10-26. Archived from the original on 26 October 2009. Retrieved 2012-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "1931 年道路信号統一条約" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-01-28. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Chapter 29 in the convention.

External links