Painted lines and symbols

Our government spends about $11.3 million each year to paint the markings on our highways.

These painted lines and symbols guide us by setting our lateral position in the roadway, telling us when we can and cannot change that position and may also prohibit driving in some lanes by marking use criteria.

These markings are known as traffic control devices and their indications must be obeyed.

Yellow lines separate traffic travelling in opposite directions.

Both a single broken yellow line and a single solid yellow line permit a driver to pass an overtaken vehicle if the pass can be made in safety.

The combination of a solid yellow line and a broken yellow line means that you may pass if the broken yellow line is on your side and it is safe to pass.

A double solid yellow line requires a driver to stay to the right of it at all times. The only exemption to this is when you are turning left to leave the highway and you do not unreasonably affect other traffic.

A reversible lane is marked with a double broken yellow line at each side. The direction of traffic using these lanes is controlled by traffic signals.

The two-way, left turn lanes have a combination yellow solid and yellow broken line at each side.

White lines separate traffic traveling in the same direction. They also define stopping positions, crosswalks and the shoulders of the highway.

A single solid white line forbids changing from one lane to the other.

A single broken white line allows a driver to change lanes if it is safe to do so.

Drivers must stop before the front of their vehicle crosses the white stop line.

Crosswalks may be marked by a series of solid white lines parallel to the sides of the road or by two solid white lines perpendicular to the sides of the road.

The white diamond and cyclist symbols indicate that the lane is a designated use lane. You may only drive in a lane marked with a diamond if you meet the requirements indicated by signs posted with the lane.

Bicycle lanes are for cyclists only and they must ride in the same direction as the adjacent lane.

White arrows show what traffic using that lane must do. An example would be a single arrow that points left. Traffic in that lane must turn left.

The last stop in our tour is the painted yellow traffic island. You must keep to the right and not drive on or over them.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/lanes/painted-lines-arrows-and-symbols


Tinted: to see or not see

One of my preferred enforcement practices was to use an unmarked car and drive in the right hand lane at or just under the speed limit.

This gave me plenty of time to look at and into whatever passed on my left.

Vehicle defects, failing to wear a seatbelt, distracted driving and other things of interest to a traffic cop were often easily discovered.

I recall doing this once on a cold and rainy afternoon. A car passed me with both the front side windows rolled down completely and both front seat occupants staring resolutely ahead.

Why do you think they were willing to get wet as they pretended not to see me?

As you have probably guessed, it was illegally tinted front side windows.

Vehicle owners who do this are surprisingly resistant to following the law.

7.05 (8) No person shall drive or operate on a highway a motor vehicle which has affixed to or placed on the windshield or a window any material that reduces the light transmitted through the windshield or window unless the material is affixed to or placed on:

  • the windshield but not more than 75 mm below the top of the windshield,
  • a side window that is behind the driver, or
  • the rear window if the motor vehicle is equipped with outside rear view mirrors on the left and right side of the motor vehicle.

(9) If a motor vehicle contains manufactured glass, tinting contained within the glass must meet the minimum light transmittancy requirements under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

In my experience, virtually all Notice & Order No. 3s were ignored. Ditto the offer to cancel a traffic ticket if the tint was removed and the vehicle presented for inspection. Sometimes it took multiple tickets and Notice & Order No. 2s to correct the issue.

I know of one business that actually told its customers that if they were stopped by the police, they could come back, have the tint removed, present the vehicle for inspection and then have the tint put back on.

Once. Free of charge.

222 : A person must not sell, offer for sale, expose or display for sale or deliver over to a purchaser for use a motor vehicle, trailer or equipment for them that is not in accordance with this Act and the regulations.

You could even find vehicles with illegal tint being displayed for sale at businesses.

8.01  No person who is engaged in the business of selling motor vehicles shall keep for sale, or sell or offer for sale, any new or used motor vehicle unless the motor vehicle is equipped as required by these regulations.

Some drivers tried to convince me, even producing a doctor's note, that they had health or vision issues that required the tint.

I could understand this for people who suffered from cutaneous porphyria, but only RoadSafetyBC can grant an exemption from these rules and they will not do so.

Why bother enforcing these rules? The information that we need to drive is predominantly visual:

Tint prevents other road users from making eye contact with the driver

Impairment of the driver's ability to identify and react to a low contrast target, particularly among older drivers

Tint remains in place at night and during times of impaired visibility  So, to see or not to see.

Why would you limit your ability to drive safely on purpose?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/see-or-not-see-tinted-windows

The lowly licence plate

The licence plate has one purpose: to quickly and easily identify the vehicle that it is attached to.

This is important enough that a whole division of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations is devoted to the subject. Fines for failing to follow these rules may be expensive as well, ranging from $109 to as much as $230.

The standard blue on white Beautiful British Columbia licence plate design does the job well. It is immediately identifiable as belonging to our province and the renewal decal system gives it a long life.

Simple, inexpensive and effective. What could possibly go wrong?

Vehicles may be issued either one or two licence plates. If two are issued, one must be securely fastened to the front and one to the rear of that vehicle. In the case of a single plate, it goes on the rear of the vehicle.

The characters are required to be displayed horizontally and the plate must always be entirely unobstructed so that they can be read.

During darkness, the rear licence plate must be lit with a white light to make the characters visible from a distance of at least 15 metres.

Transfer from one vehicle to another is strictly regulated as well.

Some people are lazy. They don't attach the front plate or just throw it on the dash. Plates are left completely covered by dirt or snow. One loosely attached fastener allowing the plate to dangle should be enough.

What seems like a good idea is not. Plastic licence plate covers, clear or tinted, can prevent a plate from being read in some circumstances and must not be installed.

Other people are dishonest. Number plates are moved to their vehicle of convenience without doing a proper transfer. Plates are covered or purposely obstructed in some manner to thwart tolls and enforcement.

Even our provincial government has lost sight of the intent. Designs such as personalized, veterans, Olympic and B.C. Parks make it more difficult to read the characters and determine where they are from.

Oddly enough, failing to display a licence plate is a $109 ticket while obstructing a plate that is displayed costs $230.

Yes, the lowly licence plate has an important job to do. There is not logical or legal to make that difficult.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/vehicle-licencing/lowly-licence-plate


Roadside inspections

Many people think traffic policing consists mostly of handing out speeding tickets.

This is not the case as there are many other job functions that officers are responsible for. One that I often found to be an interesting challenge was conducting roadside mechanical inspections.

Inspections were frequently triggered by seeing something amiss after stopping a driver for a traffic rule violation, but occasionally police will set up a check stop dedicated to mechanical inspection.

Triage will be conducted by a point person on the highway and suspect vehicles will be directed to the roadside for more thorough examinations.

In either case, the authority to conduct these inspections comes from the Motor Vehicle Act:

    219 (2) A peace officer

  • (a) may require a person who carries on the business of renting vehicles or who is the owner or person in charge of a vehicle
  • (i) to allow the peace officer to inspect a vehicle offered by the person for rental or owned by or in charge of the person, or
  • (ii) to move a vehicle described in subparagraph (i) to a place designated by the peace officer and to allow the vehicle to be inspected there by the peace officer, or, at the expense of the person required, to present the vehicle for inspection by a person authorized under section 217, and

A systematic check of the vehicle is done and defects, if any, are identified.

The enforcement action taken depends on the severity of the defect. I often chose to be guided by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's Out of Service Criteria set for North American commercial vehicles.

If it was fair to take a commercial truck off the road, it was fair to apply the same standard to light vehicles as well.

The most severe defects are dealt with by issuing a No. 1 Notice & Order, seizing vehicle licence plates and registration and calling a tow truck.

Examples of common problems that triggered this action include:

  • brake system failure
  • excessive steering linkage wear
  • frame corrosion
  • unsafe vehicle modifications.

A No. 2 Notice & Order was used when significant defects or a general pattern of neglect was uncovered. While concerning, the defects were not significant enough to justify the vehicle's immediate removal from the highway.

The order gives the vehicles' owner 30 days to correct problems.

Both of these inspection orders require that the vehicle be taken to a Designated Inspection Facility, undergo a complete inspection and be repaired to the point that a pass could be issued.

Designated Inspection Facilities use the Vehicle Inspection Manual as the standard for repair. While exempt from publication, you may be able to read this manual for free at your local public library.

For minor items, a No. 3 Notice & Order is issued. The driver or vehicle owner is asked to make the listed repair and present the vehicle to show that the repair has been made.

Ignoring these orders could result in significant consequences that include heavy fines and tow trucks.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/equipment/roadside-mechanical-inspections

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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