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Road Markings Explained

Road Markings Explained

Despite encountering them everyday in our vehicles, not everyone knows what the different road markings mean. They all play a crucial role in our day-to-day lives, so it is vital that we understand them.

Junction road markings explained

A busy junction will contain a number of different markings, the most common of which is give way. They usually take the form of an upside-down triangle, marked with either brown or red lines. Found often on the right side of the road, the sign is a warning to other drivers that vehicles will be passing by in front of them. If a vehicle is spotted coming down that road, drivers must give way to the right and let them through.

If there are traffic lights or stop signs present, thick white lines are often present, too. They are marked across a lane to alert drivers that they must stop if the red light is illuminated. All forms of vehicle must come to a stop before hitting the lines – failing to do this is an offence. 

Some stop lights have a cyclist-only lane with its own individual set of stop lights, the same rules apply here.

Some busy junctions take the form of box junctions. These are marked by a yellow cross-grid. You must not enter the grid unless there is enough space for you to fully pass through, you may also enter the box junction if you are turning right but you have been blocked by oncoming traffic.

Box junction road markings explained

Zigzag line road markings explained

White zigzags are commonly found either side of pedestrian crossings. They are designed to indicate that parking and overtaking in these zones is strictly prohibited. The same rule applies to yellow zigzag lines, which are found outside of schools, hospitals, police and fire stations. Their purpose is to provide pedestrians, children and staff a clear, unobstructed view of the road in front of them. 

Yellow lines are found near some curbs, often near residential areas. Their job is to restrict parking. Single yellow lines allow parking at certain times.

Zigzag road markings explainedCarriageway road markings explained

Single carriageways often separate lanes of traffic with central broken white lines. Gaps between the lines may shorten to warn drivers of incoming hazards. 

Shortened white lines will be used if both lanes of traffic are travelling in the same direction. 

Double white lines can be used to help manage traffic flow. They will either appear with one solid line and one broken line, or two solid lines. With these sorts of lines, the following rules apply:

  • If the nearest line to you is broken, Rule 128 of the Highway Code states that you are allowed to cross these lines to overtake someone if you are certain that it’s safe to do so.
  • If the nearest line to you is solid,  Rule 129 of the Highway Code states that you should not cross or straddle these lines unless you: 1) need to enter an adjoining premise or side road, or 2) need to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a cyclist or horse.
  • If both lines are solid, you should not cross over these lines at all unless extreme circumstances dictate that you have to. If both lines are solid, you can presume that visibility is very poor on these roads and overtaking would be too dangerous.


Markings that mark the edge of a carriageway are white in colour and are unbroken. These markings are used to tell drivers where the carriageway ends and not to stray past this line. These sorts of road markings are often ribbed (created intentionally with bumps) so that, when a driver passes over them, their car judders and makes a loud noise, alerting them to the fact that they have strayed off the carriageway.

Single yellow lines can often be found on the edges of roads in cities and towns. These lines mean that you cannot wait on that section of the road in the timeframes outlined on signs close by. If you cannot find any signs, you can presume that this rule applies at all times, including Sundays and bank holidays.

Double yellow lines mean that waiting or parking on this road is not allowed at any time, so if you notice these, it’s best to simply move on and find somewhere else to wait/park.


On roads in towns and cities, you will often see white bay markings on the side of the road. These are broken lines that form rectangles in which cars are allowed to park. Look for nearby signs in order to find out when and for how long you are allowed to park in these zones.

Sometimes, you will see a parking bay with broken lines that has the words “loading only” written within. Stopping and parking in these bays is usually limited to goods vehicles and the like, so it’s best to check any nearby signs before you park to gather more information.

Carriageway road markings explained

As an independent, local council-approved road marking contractor, you can put your faith in Northern Marking to carry out any line marking project to the highest standard, no matter how big or small the project might be. With 12 years of experience in the industry, you can expect a quick turnaround, a superb level of aftercare and high-quality products. For more information, get in touch today.

Northern Marking is based in Manchester, but provides services to clients in the following areas; Huddersfield, Blackburn, Rochdale, Preston and beyond.

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