Know the Signs: Navigation Tips For Survival


There are literally millions of road signs throughout the US. They’re certainly not there for looks and it’s a good idea to understand the meaning behind them. The thing is, there’s more than meets the eye with road signs, so there’s more than surface-level knowledge to glean from them. Whether you’re an old-fashioned map user or a new-age hipster using a GPS system, knowing which road signs mean what is crucial.

Navigational Road Signs

Navigation is vital for anyone and everyone, especially in a crisis or SHTF scenario. You’ll need that ability to determine where you are, and how to get to your destination, likely without GPS, or a map.

As the name suggests, these signs help drivers to find their way from one place to another. To an extent, you could solely use the signs to get from one city to another; no map needed.

These road signs are vital for navigating:

  1. Street signs; you see these everywhere and the name is pretty self-explanatory. These signs tell you what the street names are and what streets are intersecting at that point.
  1. Distance signs are another set of straightforward markers. These signs provide you with information on how far away a certain road, town, city, or state border is.
  1. Pentagon-shaped school signs, or simply school zone and crossing signs. These indicate you’re within the vicinity of a school. Crossing signs signify that children cross the road at that particular spot. When you see these, be sure to reduce your speed and proceed with caution, especially if there are flashing lights nearby.
  1. Orange construction signs. These signs are probably the most dreaded signs of all. They close roads, make detours, and just make it harder for you to get that Starbucks coffee in the morning as you run late for work. These signs also help indicate one-lane roads, as well as flaggers, being ahead. These signs seek to help keep workers safe.
  1. Mile markers, they seem pointless, but they’re actually very important. These are especially helpful when there’s an emergency on a highway. If you’re in trouble, you can give authorities a more accurate location via mile markers. So pay attention to them!
  1. Interstate and highway shields, these signs indicate you’re on a highway or coming up to one. These also provide you with the direction you are traveling. State highways are white shields with a black number in the center; interstate signs are blue and red shields with a white number in the center. The direction of travel is at the top of the sign.

Secret Messages

The great part about signs is that some have a hidden message. Of course, it’s not some Illuminati symbolism or hidden cultish messages. These messages are actually there for your benefit and to make navigation easier. Some examples of these secret messages are:

Interstate and Highway Signs – These signs come in a wide range of numbers, but there’s actually a method to the madness. State highways are numbered to indicate what direction they run in. Odd is for north-south, and even is for east-west.

Interstate signs kick this up a notch, with north-south highway numbers increasing from the west coast to the east coast. The same is true for the east-west highways, with numbers increasing from south to the north.

Interstates that are numbered in multiples of five; I-5, I-10, I-15, etc., are designated to be major arteries, and are designed for long-distance travel.

Exit Signs – These signs indicate when a certain exit is, showing you when to exit the highway to reach your desired destination. But did you know the placement of these signs actually matter in most states?

If an exit sign is on the top left part of a route sign it indicates that the exit will be on the left side of the highway. If the sign is on the right side, the exit will be on the right. If the sign is in the middle, it means to stay in that lane. If there is no exit sign above the route sign, continue on course.

The route signs also follow this by being placed over certain lanes. This indicates which lane you should be in, in order to follow your route. Not all states have adopted this policy, though.


Road signs are very important to understand, especially for new drivers. They can help you avoid getting lost and may even save your life. Knowing their secret meanings also helps a lot if your phone dies or you lose access to GPS signals. It has to be easier than using the sky, sun, or stars if you’re forced to bug-out, right?

Did you know the meaning behind all of these signs already? Did you know they could be so useful? Reply to your email and share your thoughts, we would love to hear from you!

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