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What is a blue car sign?

What is a blue car sign?

A blue car sign refers to the blue colored signs that are posted along roadways to indicate services and facilities for motorists. These signs have a blue background with white text or symbols. Blue signs are used for services like rest areas, hospitals, gas stations, food, lodging, camping and more. The blue color helps motorists easily spot them while driving so they can locate the services they need. Understanding what different blue signs mean can be helpful for drivers.

Purpose of Blue Signs

The main purpose of blue colored signs along roadways is to indicate motorist services and facilities ahead. The familiar blue background helps them stand out so drivers can quickly notice them. Some key reasons blue signs are used:

  • Quickly identify services – The blue background makes signs easy to see so motorists can spot services they need.
  • Find gas, food, lodging – Helps motorists locate essential services like gas stations, restaurants and hotels.
  • Locate hospitals – Critical for drivers to find hospitals in an emergency situation.
  • Navigate rest areas – Points out rest areas and picnic sites so drivers can stop and take a break.
  • Indicate recreational sites – Helps drivers find camping grounds, parks, trails and other recreation sites.

The blue coloration is important because it allows motorists to identify these types of signs among all the other signage along the road. This allows drivers to quickly locate important facilities and services they may need.

Types of Blue Signs

There are several common types of blue colored road signs indicating different facilities for drivers:

Rest Area Signs

These signs have the words “REST AREA” and the distance ahead. They indicate a rest area or roadside park upcoming where motorists can stop to use restroom facilities, picnic areas, vending machines, pet walk areas and more. Rest areas provide a safe place to take a break from driving.

Gas Station Signs

Signs with gas pump symbols point out a gas station ahead where drivers can refuel their vehicles. They display the distance to the gas station and may show the exit number. These are critical to find when low on fuel.

Food Signs

Food signs display symbols like knives and forks, coffee cups or hamburgers to indicate restaurants coming up. They help hungry travelers locate places to eat along the route.

Lodging Signs

Lodging signs use simple bed icons to point out motel and hotel accommodations ahead. Drivers can follow these to find hotels to rest overnight when traveling long distances.

Hospital Signs

Critical blue hospital signs use the letter “H” or hospital symbols to identify medical centers upcoming. Drivers can follow these in emergencies to get care quickly.

Camping Signs

For recreational travelers, blue camping signs point ahead to campgrounds and RV parks. Helpful for finding spots to park RVs or pitch tents overnight.

Park Signs

Park signs indicate state or national parks coming up. Helpful for travelers looking to visit park sites and attractions along their route.

Other Services

Some miscellaneous services like car washes, wi-fi, visitor centers and police may also have designated blue signs. Help mark these extra services for drivers.

Appearance of Blue Signs

While the color is standard, the shapes and details of blue highway signs can vary:

  • Rectangular – Most common shape for things like rest areas, gas, food, lodging.
  • Square – May be used for signs like hospitals, camping, parks.
  • Exit signs – Attached to green exit signs to indicate services at that exit.
  • Symbols – Simple images quickly convey meaning like beds, gas pumps, coffee cups.
  • Reflective – Retroreflective sheeting helps them reflect light and be visible at night.

Standard dimensions for most blue signs is 36 inches wide by 36 inches tall. Larger signs may be used on freeways or where greater visibility is needed. The blue background helps the white text and images stand out.

Location of Blue Signs

Blue guide signs are positioned strategically along roadways:

  • In advance – Placed well before the distance to the destination so drivers have warning.
  • Approaching exits – Clustered with green exit signs to indicate services at that exit.
  • Intersections – Where a side route leads to the service, like a hospital.
  • Overhead – Sometimes large signs are placed overhead for high visibility.
  • Mile markers – Reference distance to destinations from numbered mile markers.

They are designed to be noticed by motorists traveling at highway speeds. Placing them too close to exits does not allow enough response time for drivers to react and maneuver safely. The specific placement follows national highway standards.

Why Use Blue for Service Signs?

The decision to use blue for service signs goes back to guidelines published in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD outlines national standards for road signs, signals and pavement markings. Some key reasons blue was designated for service signs:

  • Distinctive – Contrasts with other standard sign colors like red, yellow, orange, green.
  • Easy to see – The cool tone stands out clearly against varied environments.
  • Known meaning – Drivers associate the color blue with motorist services.
  • Popular – Positive public opinion and familiarity with existing blue service signs.

Research showed blue was highly noticed by drivers. The shade also worked well under varying light conditions. The highly recognizable blue signs have been around since the early 1960s. Given the strong legacy and driver recognition, it remains the standard color for service signs.

Regulations for Blue Signs

Use of official blue signs is regulated by the MUTCD standards. Key rules include:

  • Color – Must match the specified highway blue color #00A2D8.
  • Retroreflective – Must use approved reflective sheeting materials.
  • Symbols – Designs should follow recommended symbols.
  • Borders – White borders help the blue stand out.
  • Placement – Should follow guidelines for visibility and spacing.
  • Official approval – Signs along federal-aid highways need approval.

These regulations help ensure consistency and recognition across jurisdictions. Most states follow the MUTCD policies for their state-owned signs too. Any businesses placing private blue signs must follow zoning rules.

Benefits of Understanding Blue Signs

For motorists, understanding how to interpret different blue highway signs offers benefits:

  • Meet needs – Locate essential services like gas, food, lodging when required.
  • Avoid problems – Find help before running out of gas, getting too tired or having an emergency.
  • Navigate unfamiliar areas – Decipher signs to orient yourself in a new location.
  • Feel reassured – Take comfort knowing needed services are coming up ahead.
  • Travel smarter – Plan your stops and route using upcoming blue sign information.
  • Safety – React to signs further from exits to make safe lane changes and turns.

Knowing what to watch for and expect from blue signs makes any road trip simpler. With practice, motorists learn to spot the different shapes and symbols from a distance. This knowledge helps drivers travel more safely and efficiently.


Spotting that familiar blue color along the highway offers comfort and information for drivers. Blue colored signs serve an important role in highlighting upcoming essential services and destinations. Their purpose is to quickly notify travelers of rest areas, gas, food, lodging, medical care, recreational sites and other facilities ahead.

Understanding the common types of blue signs, what they signify, and where they are located helps motorists navigate unfamiliar routes. Drivers can locate the services they need, avoid problems, and travel more efficiently and safely. While driving, it is always wise to be on the lookout for the next blue sign.


  • Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
  • Standard Highway Signs. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.
  • Traffic Sign Design, Placement, and Application Guidelines. Pedersen, Nelson, et al. McLean, VA: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, 1978.
  • Effects of Color and Shape on Identification of Traffic Signs. Dewar, Robert E., et al. McLean, VA: U.S. Department of Commerce/National Bureau of Standards, 1979.
  • 2007 California MUTCD. State of California Department of Transportation.