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Parking Lot Signage: Rules for Proper Use

Parking lot signage is essential for maintaining parking safety. For these signs to do the most good, however, lot managers and owners must ensure they are chosen and installed correctly. This post will provide a high-level introduction to this topic. For detailed information, please consult the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or an official public safety manual. The material in this post is derived from a publication issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Major Types of Parking Lot Signage: an Overview

Here are the main types of signs you’ll find in most parking lots:

  • Handicapped parking signs—These feature graphics and text in white against a blue background. The surface is coated with a reflective vinyl to increase visibility. These signs always use the universal symbol of handicap access, an outline drawing of a person in a wheelchair. This logo is used across the globe.
  • Lot section signs—These indicate the section of the lot in which the motorist is parked. They feature white text, although the background color can vary. To do their job, these signs should be placed well above surrounding vehicles and away from possible obstructions.
  • Informational panels—This parking lot signage is used to communicate many different types of instructions or information. These signs can advise drivers of towing penalties, alert them to potential safety hazards, or direct them to elevators, stairs, or other mobility aids. The text is always white, but background colors may vary.
  • Specialized medical parking lot signage—These signs designate parking that’s limited to persons with specific injuries or medical needs. For example, sometimes these signs announce the location of a spinal cord injury center; any parking spaces in the nearby vicinity can only be used by those arriving for treatment at the clinic. The text is usually in black and white, with red and/or white in the background.
  • Parking space availability signs—This parking lot signage notifies the public of available spaces in the lot. Occasionally, these are updated by human attendants. In most cases, however, they use electronic counting and display devices to keep the information current.
  • Rebounding bollards—These are most commonly used with flexible signposts in areas with a high likelihood of low-speed vehicle collisions. For example, rebounding bollards may form the lower section of a stop, caution, or turn sign within a parking lot.
  • Tubular markers—These are often placed in areas requiring portable or temporary signage. For example, in many parking lots, some areas are off-limits during designated periods of the day. Tubular markers may be used to indicate these areas and then moved or placed in storage when they’re no longer needed.

Parking Lot Signage Use: General Guidelines

  • Even the best-designed sign will do no good if it’s invisible. Ensure that it’s easy to see during all hours of the day and night. Reflective vinyl coatings and bright lighting can help. If the budget permits, then painting interior walls and fixtures with white or light-colored paint can assist as well.
  • Place parking lot signage in places where people expect to see it, such as in front of spaces, at entrance and exit points, and at turning points in interior garages.
  • Repair damaged and vandalized signs as quickly as possible. Prosecute offenders.
  • Ensure that existing signage conforms to all applicable laws and regulations, as these rules frequently change.
  • Every so often, evaluate the effectiveness of existing signage and replace or update units as needed.


Every day, the world becomes increasingly urbanized. Along with a more mobile society comes an ever-greater need to manage traffic flow and parking patterns. When used properly, parking lot signage can help solve the challenge of ensuring parking safety.