Getting your driver’s permit is a fun and exciting time. But between school, extracurriculars, (potentially) work, and studying for the exam, you have a lot of things to juggle. Learning a new skill like driving will require time too: you need attention to detail and lots of practice. One of the best ways to learn the rules of the road for your driving exam is to refresh the basics. In this article, we are going to look at some basic road signs in California and some basic speed limits for different situations. Knowing these ahead of time will make driving and your exam a breeze. 

California’s most common traffic signs: 

The DMV handbook and our course at Your Drivers Ed Online will teach you everything you need to know about signage before hitting the open road. But here we ‌look at some of the most common street signs in California. These may seem basic but knowing the basics is what’s going to help you do well on your driving exam. 

Stop Sign

A basic, but important one. A stop sign is a red sign with an 8-sided (octagon) shape with the word “STOP” in the middle. If you see this, it means you must come to a full and complete stop behind the line on the ground. Do not pass the line or simply slow down (i.e., not stop), otherwise you may be subject to a ticket. Before proceeding, you must check all directions to make sure the coast is clear.

Stop Sign

Yield Sign

The yield sign is a sign with an upside-down triangle shape. It is most frequently red and white. This sign means you do not have the right of way. You must slow down and be ready to stop (if needed) to let other vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists coming from another direction go before you. 

Yield Sign

Speed Limit

We will discuss speed limits in detail a bit later in this article, but a speed limit sign tells you the maximum speed you are allowed to travel in the area. The speed limit applies until you see another sign indicating otherwise.

Speed Limit

No Parking

A no parking sign is a traffic sign that indicates that parking is not allowed in a particular area. You will see them in areas that are busy or where there is limited space, such as near schools or hospitals. No parking signs are also often used to ensure that fire lanes are kept clear.

No Parking

School Zone

This sign reminds drivers to slow down and be cautious, as there are children present who might not be paying attention to traffic. School zones typically have a lower speed limit, at or around 25 mph, and drivers who exceed this limit can be subject to fines. In some cases, there may also be crossing guards present to help children cross the street safely. So next time you’re driving through a school zone, remember to take it slow and watch out for little ones.

School Zone

One Way

A one-way sign is a traffic sign that indicates to drivers that they can only travel in one direction on a particular roadway. One-way streets tend to apply in populated areas (like a downtown area) with heavy pedestrian traffic, or where there is construction work taking place.

One Way

No Right on Red

You will notice that “no turn on red” intersections concentrate in high-traffic areas where there is a risk of collisions (whether it’s due to a school, blind corner, or simply high traffic). By preventing drivers from turning on a red light, these intersections help to keep traffic moving smoothly and reduce the chances of accidents.

No Turn on Red

U turn

U-turn signs are designed to help drivers safely turn around. You might see a U-turn sign at an intersection where you’re not supposed to turn left, at a protected U-turn light, or when you’re trying to exit a parking garage, for example. No matter where you see them, U-turn signs always have the same meaning: you may turn around and go back the way you came. It is also important to note if you see a U-turn sign on an unprotected left turn arrow, you need to watch out for oncoming traffic before making your U-turn.


RailRoad Crossing

If you’ve ever seen a railroad crossing sign, you know that they are meant to catch your attention and warn you of an upcoming train. The signs are usually bright and reflective, with a large X to indicate the location of the tracks. In addition, the signs often have a flashing light that activates when a train is approaching. When you see a railroad crossing sign, it’s important to slow down and be prepared to stop. By following these simple steps, you can help to ensure your safety and the safety of others.

Railroad Crossing

Speed Limits

When getting behind the wheel as a new driver, you will think about things like your hand position, checking your mirrors, and surveying the road in front of you. 

While they post speed limit signs to show you the speed, sometimes a sign is not in plain sight. As a driver, it’s important to know from memory certain speed limits. Knowing these will keep you, other drivers, pedestrians, and even animals safe. It also could help prevent you from getting a speeding ticket. 

Before we get into specifics, let’s take a look at the actual definition of a speed limit. A Speed limit is the maximum speed at which a vehicle is legally permitted to travel, as within a specific area, on a certain road, or under given conditions (

The DMV also states, “California’s ‘Basic Speed Law’ means that you may never drive faster than is safe for current conditions.” This means even if the posted sign is 55, but you’re driving through a storm, it may not be safe to travel 55 mph. Besides weather conditions (snow, fog, rain, etc.) things like bikers, road conditions, animals, and flow of traffic can all influence what is considered a safe speed to travel. Now let’s ‌look at specific roads and areas you should know the speed limit of before you get behind the wheel. 

Highway vs Freeway speed limits

First things first, let’s look at a highway vs freeway. In California, a highway is a road that connects two cities or towns. It is typically a paved road with multiple lanes. A freeway is a type of highway that has no stop signs or traffic lights.
Note: In some cases, there may be tolls for using a freeway.

Vehicles can travel at higher speeds on freeways than highways. It is a good rule of thumb to assume that the speed on a highway or freeway in California is 65 mph (unless otherwise posted). Please note that if you are pulling a trailer, the speed limit is decreased to 55 mph.

School Zone Speed Limit

A school zone speed limit is typically 25mph or less. The rule states that you should expect and abide by a limit of 25mph near a school while children are outside or present. Some schools may have a posted speed limit of 15 mph. If children are present it’s always better and safer to take things slow.

Parking lot speed limit

Some parking lots have a speed limit sign posted and some do not. It’s a good rule of thumb to expect the speed limit to be a maximum of 15mph. 

A parking lot is a place everyone should exercise patience and take their time. With lots of cars parking/backing out of spaces, people walking, possible shopping carts, parking lots pose a lot of obstacles and should be taken seriously. 

Residential or Business area Speed limit

The speed limit in almost all residential areas or business parks is 25mph. 

Alley Speed limits

When driving in an alley, the speed limit is 15 mph. Many alleys have blind spots, making it hard to see crossing traffic. For this reason, always proceed with caution. 
We hope this helped get you ready for your exam or was a good refresher on the basics. If you or someone you know in the state of California are looking to get their driver’s permit, send them over to our link to get started with their Driver’s Ed course for free today!