Rare Road Signs in the UK and What They Mean

11th May 2023

By Ellie Brown

Uncommon Road Signs

All drivers, learners, and experienced motorists are familiar with the wide variety of regulatory and warning road signs that are positioned on highways in the UK.

There are plenty of common road signs that many drivers see on a daily basis, including 'give way', and 'no through route'. However, there are a few rare signs that may leave you confused as to what they mean.

We detail some of the signs that feature the least across the strategic road network in England, Scotland, and Wales; including motorways and major A-roads.

No Vehicles

No Vehicles Road Sign

Seeing an empty road sign will undoubtedly leave motorists scratching their heads for an explanation, but this vacant-looking sign simply alerts drivers that access to an area is prohibited.

According to the Highway Code, this 'no vehicles' sign means any vehicles including cars, vans, and motorbikes are banned from accessing the given area. However, pedestrians pushing a pedal cycle by hand are allowed to pass.


Tank Road Sign

This warning sign is often displayed where the army does its tank and armoured-vehicle training, and is intended to inform motorists that slow-moving military vehicles are likely to be in or crossing the road.

Depending on the size of the military vehicle, it may take up more than one lane on the motorway or major A-road. It's also often slow-moving and very unlikely to be anywhere near the speed limit of 70mph.

These road warning signs are a pretty uncommon sight in England, and there are currently none displayed on the trunk road network in Scotland. However, it's important to be alert to what this sign means if you ever find yourself around a tank and armoured-vehicle training ground.

Wild horses or ponies likely to be in the road ahead

Wild Horses Road Sign

This sign isn't to be confused with the common sign advising drivers of accompanied horses or ponies likely to be in or crossing the road, as it actually denotes wild horses or ponies.

Essentially, this sign is warning motorists to be attentive and look out for horses or ponies which may gallop across the road or be grazing at the side of the carriageway.

With just several signs in England, Scotland, and Wales, this sign is still pretty rare across the strategic road network, but it's significant for motorists to be aware should they ever come across one.

Wild fowl likely to be in the road ahead

Wild Fowl Road Sign

This sign warns drivers that there's likely to be wild fowl in the road. This includes birds such as ducks, swans, and geese that live close to ponds or rivers.

Ducks often cross the road with their ducklings in tow, completely oblivious to oncoming traffic, so if you see this sign, remember to be attentive and slow down in case these birds decide to wander into the road.

Ford Ahead

Ford Road Sign

Some drivers might confuse this sign with the popular UK car manufacturer Ford, but it actually means there's shallow water in the road where vehicles can cross.

There's a chance you've probably seen this sign at some point on your travels and are aware to exercise caution when you spot this warning.

A ford is defined as a shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk or drive across. Although, you should be careful following heavy rainfall, as the water may have risen to a point that's dangerous for some vehicles to tackle.

Railway level crossing without gate or barrier ahead

Railway Crossing Road Sign

This sign is one of the rarest in the UK, and is positioned prior to a level crossing, where a railway line crosses a road, and informs drivers there's no gate or barrier present.

On approaching this sign, motorists must stop and give way to trains like they would at a standard road junction.

These particular signs are mainly seen on quieter roads, hence why only three can be found on the strategic road network in Wales and there aren't any on the Scottish or English motorways or major A-roads.

Staying safe on the road

Understanding road signs is one of the most crucial parts of keeping yourself and others safe on the road. Getting to know even the rarest of road signs means you'll be avoiding accidents and unwanted fines should you ever come across one.

For more motoring advice including the latest driving insights and guides, head to our blog section, which is updated regularly with the latest information.

All images are provided by Crown copyright.