Traffic signals and communication

Contents

Information overload

When driving in towns and cities, you are often bombarded with information from traffic signals, road signs, road markings, other road users and sometimes even police officers and others. It is important to be able to quickly and correctly interpret all information and to know what applies when you receive several instructions at the same time.

You also need to be aware of which signals you send out to other road users through your light and sound signals, your speed and your positioning.


You must know what applies when you receive several instructions at the same time

Police officer signals

Of all the signals you can encounter while driving, a police officer's signal has the highest priority. It applies before traffic signals, road signs and general traffic rules. If you approach a junction and a police officer signals for you to keep driving, you should keep driving, even if there is a red light or a stop sign posted next to the junction.

It is called "police officer's signal", but the following occupational groups also have the authority to direct traffic:


Traffic wardens are one of the occupational groups that have the authority to direct traffic

Below are the signals these occupational groups can use to direct road traffic.

When a police officer is on or next to a road


Stop for those coming from the front or from behind – This signal is used in junctions and applies for as long as the police officer is facing in the same direction. For road users approaching from the side, the signal indicates that it is permitted to advance.


Drive forward and stop – This waving signal (which the police officer makes with his right arm) indicates that road users coming from the direction the signal is given may continue forward. The other signal (which the police officer makes with his left arm) indicates that road users coming from the front or from behind must stop.


Stop for those coming from the front or from behind – This signal indicates that road users facing the lantern must stop.


Slow down – This signal indicates that road users facing the police officer must slow down.


Stop - This signal indicates that road users facing the police officer's palm must stop.

When a police officer is in a police vehicle


Follow and stop behind the police vehicle – This signal indicates that the driver of the vehicle behind the police vehicle should follow and stop behind the police vehicle when it stops. The signal can be given with a hand or a stop paddle with the text "STOP" or "POLIS".


Pull over to the side of the road and stop in front of the police vehicle – This signal indicates that the driver of the vehicle in front of the police vehicle should pull over to the side of the road and stop. The signal is given with alternating flashing blue and red lights.


Slow down – This signal indicates that road users behind the police vehicle should slow down. The signal is given with the palm of the police officer's hand facing downwards. The signal can also be given from the front.

Traffic signals

A traffic signal is a light or sound signal that regulates traffic. Traffic signals have the second highest priority. They apply before road signs and general traffic rules, but after police officers' signals. If a traffic light is green, you should drive, even if there is a stop sign posted next to the traffic light.

Traffic lights in Sweden change signal in the following sequence: redred and yellowgreenyellowred.

Red
Red always means stop.

You must stop before the stop line or, if there is no stop line, the traffic light. A signal that is red with a black contour arrow only applies to the direction or directions indicated by the arrow.

Red and yellow
Red and yellow means that the signal is about to change to green.

You should prepare yourself to drive, but you must not advance until the signal changes to green.

Green

Green means that you may continue forward.

A green arrow means that the signal only applies to the direction of travel indicated by the arrow. Even if the signal next to it is red, you may still drive in the direction of the arrow.

Yellow
Yellow means that the signal is about to change to red.

As a rule, you should stop. But if you are too close to the signal when it changes from green to yellow to stop in a safe manner, you should continue driving.

Flashing yellow
Flashing yellow means that the traffic signals at the junction are out of order. When passing a traffic light flashing yellow, you must observe special caution.

When traffic signals are out of order general traffic rules apply instead.

Extra light
Next to some traffic lights there is sometimes a smaller extra light with only two lamps. If the extra light is off, the signal shown by the main light applies.

If the main light is green and the extra light is off (like the picture) the green light applies, which means that you may continue forwards.

If the main light is red and the extra light is off you must stop. If the main light is red and the extra light shows a green arrow you may only drive in the direction of the arrow.

Clarification on yellow lights

Many make the mistake of speeding through yellow lights in order to pass the traffic lights before the signal changes to red. A driver who misjudges the distance to the traffic light risks driving through a red light and to surprise both other drivers and pedestrians or cyclists who may have started crossing the road.

As a rule, you should always stop when a traffic light is yellow. Only continue driving if you are so close to the traffic signal when it changes to yellow that you risk causing a dangerous traffic situation by braking hard or suddenly stopping.


A traffic light that is yellow means that the signal is about to change to red

Road signs

Road signs have the third highest priority. They apply before general traffic rules, but after traffic signals and police officers' signals. If you approach a junction with the road sign Give way, the road sign applies before general traffic rules such as the priority to the right-rule.

Warning signs

Give warning of different types of dangers, indicating you should be extra attentive and careful.

Almost all warning signs are triangular with a red border and black motif against a yellow background.

Priority signs

Inform about give way and duty to stop rules. All priority signs have different shapes and colours.

Prohibitory signs

Indicate that something is prohibited, for example entering a road with a vehicle.

As a rule, the prohibition applies from the sign to the next junction. Another road sign or additional panel can also cancel the prohibition.

Most prohibitory signs are round with a red border and black motif against a yellow background.

Mandatory signs

Tell you what you must do, for example drive in a certain direction.

As a rule, the mandatory order applies from the sign to the next junction. Another road sign or additional panel can also cancel the mandatory order.

Almost all mandatory signs are round with a white border and white motif against a blue background.

Advisory signs

Tell you about what applies to a particular location, road or road section. For example, that a motorway or pedestrian street begins or ends.

Where advisory signs have been put up special traffic rules usually apply. Advisory signs apply until a cancelling sign.

Advisory signs are always square or rectangular but do vary in appearance.

Directional signs

Show the way to a town, place, establishment, facility or similar.

Directional signs vary in shape and appearance.

Additional panels

Provide additional information to the road sign above the panel.

Additional panels vary in appearance but usually have the same colours as the road sign they supplement.

Time indications on additional panels

An additional panel with time indications always supplements another road sign and indicates which days and between which times the indication on the road sign applies. They can, for example, tell you when a road sign with a speed limit or a parking prohibition applies.

If the time indication extends past midnight, the time period after midnight applies the following day.

If a certain date or weekday is indicated, the regulation applies on that day regardless of whether the day is a weekday, weekend day or holiday.

Your signals

By properly communicating your intentions – for example, by indicating before turning – you prepare fellow road users for what you intend to do. However, you still have the obligation to be attentive and make sure that you can safely carry out your intended manoeuvre. You are not free from liability simply because you have used your indicators or have otherwise demonstrated your intentions.

Never assume that other road users have seen your signals or understood your intentions just because you have signalled. Try to make eye contact with other road users whenever possible as it makes it easier for you to understand their intentions and easier for them to understand yours.

Light signals

A driver usually communicates with other road users using one or more of the following lights: indicators, when moving the car sideways; brake lights, when slowing down or stopping; full beam headlights, when alerting another driver in darkness; and hazard warning lights, at emergency stops and during towing.


Always use the indicators before moving a car sideways

The indicators should be turned on well in advance (but not so early that your intentions may be misinterpreted) before you:

Do not forget to turn off the car's indicators after completing the manoeuvre.

Before turning, moving your car sideways or reversing, you must always check your rear-view mirror and side mirrors as well as your vehicle's blind spot by briefly glancing over your shoulder. The blind spot is the area not covered by any mirror.

The brake lights turn on automatically when you push the brake pedal. Before any hard braking you should tap the brake pedal lightly a few times, so as to activate the brake lights and therefore alert drivers behind you of your intentions to slow down.


When you push the brake pedal the brake lights turn on automatically

In darkness, full beam headlights can be used as a sort of "light horn" by quickly flashing them on and off. Just as with the regular horn, you should only use the light horn if needed to avert a dangerous situation. For example, if you meet an oncoming vehicle driving against traffic.

You may not use the light horn to greet another road user or to inform the driver in the vehicle in front of you that you intend to overtake.

The hazard warning lights should be turned on if you are forced to stop, due to an emergency, in a place where stopping or parking is prohibited. It is also permitted to turn on the hazard warning lights when being towed.

Sound signals

The horn may only be used to attract other road users' attention if needed to avert a dangerous situation. For example, if you suspect a pedestrian has not seen your car and is heading out into the street.

You may not use the horn to greet another road user or to indicate your annoyance at someone's way of driving.


You may only use the horn if needed to avert a dangerous situation

Speed

You communicate a lot with the speed at which you are driving. For example, if you lower your speed and position your car to the right-hand side of the road, the driver in the vehicle behind you will probably interpret this as a signal to overtake.

Your speed is also key to clearly communicating your intentions when you have a duty to give way. When you intend to give way to others it is very important that you slow down well in advance, and if necessary, stop completely. Your fellow road users must always be able to feel confident that you will give way when you have a duty to do so.

If you brake hard just before a give way junction, you have failed to give way because you did not slow down or stop in time.

Positioning

How you position your car tells your fellow road users what you intend to do, especially where and when you intend to turn.

By choosing the correct lane and positioning your car in the correct place at the correct time, you increase accessibility, traffic safety and also make it easier for your fellow road users to plan their driving.

Read more about positioning and lane selection.

Exceptions for some groups

When deemed necessary some occupational groups have the right to drive at higher speeds than the maximum permitted and infringe certain traffic rules (for example, drive through red lights).

The following occupational groups have this right:


Police officers may infringe certain traffic regulations if necessary

Make way for emergency vehicles

You must make way for emergency vehicles – for example police cars, ambulances and fire trucks – if they have their sirens or blue lights on. When a signalling emergency vehicle approaches you, you must make way, move over to the side and, if necessary, stop so that it can pass as easily as possible.

As soon as you hear a siren or notice a flashing blue light, you must ready yourself for action and be prepared to make way.