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Behind-the-Wheel

Which signs are which?

Regulatory and advisory signs

Drivers are often confused about the difference between a regulatory sign and an advisory sign.

A regulatory sign generally has black characters or symbols on a white background, and an advisory sign has black characters or symbols on a yellow background.

What's the difference?

The regulatory sign must be obeyed exactly as it is read.

Examples of regulatory signs include:

  • Speed limits
  • Turn restrictions
  • Parking restrictions
  • Directional instructions.

Failure to obey these signs is an offence and the driver may be charged if they choose not to follow the instruction.

If there is not a specific offence such as speeding or failing to stop for the regulatory sign, a traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device may be issued to the driver.

An advisory sign gives advance notice of conditions on or adjacent to a highway that are potentially hazardous to traffic.

A driver may choose whether to follow the suggestion given by the sign.

Ignoring the advice is not an offence in itself, but anything that happens because the signs are not given consideration may be an offence.

A common advisory sign is the large diamond shaped sign shows a black arrow on a yellow background telling drivers of a curve ahead.

Underneath it is a smaller square sign with black lettering on a yellow background showing a speed of 30 km/h.
The example of the curve was chosen to illustrate a point.

We have often seen these signs and then travelled around the curve comfortably at speeds higher than that suggested.

In those cases, the shape of the curve and the road condition could accommodate the vehicle travelling at the higher speed.

Why was the speed warning there?

Often it is because the driver's line of sight is restricted. This would prevent the driver from seeing and reacting to a hazard in or just beyond the corner unless the speed was at or less than that suggested.

Heavy trucks may also be required to slow for the corner to prevent tipping over.

A relatively new (since 2012) advisory sign is black on a pink background.

These signs warn of an emergency incident ahead and tell drivers to expect responders on the roadway.

Proceed with caution as full temporary traffic control may not yet have been established.

Failure to obey an advisory sign is only an offence if something happens as a result of ignoring the advice and the offence is generally for the misadventure that occurs.

Need a quick brush up on what road signs mean?

Drop by your local Driver Service Centre (where you renew your driver's licence) and ask for a free copy of Learn to Drive Smart.

The signs, signals and road markings are explained in Chapter 3.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/signs-signals/regulatory-and-advisory-signs



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Ignore them, they'll go away

Last September, a Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) asked me to help establish a crossing-guard program.

The Ecole Oceanside Elementary School PAC in Parksville wanted the program for what they considered a dangerous intersection at one corner of the school.

In past, the principal had raised the issue of liability concerns that needed to be looked into and that was the end of the conversation.

This year, with a little bit of research and advice from another school that had a crossing-guard program, this program was backed by the new principal.

The request made it as far as the school district’s Operations and Maintenance/Transportation manager according to the PAC, where it stalled yet again.

The head of the PAC has now stopped responding to requests for an update on the progress of their project.

The strategy of Ignore Them, They'll Go Away seems to have been successfully adopted by many levels of government.

From the perspective of gathering information for this site, RoadSafetyBC is the worst, TranBC along with the RCMP are somewhere in the middle and ICBC has been the best, although they are now beginning to ignore
e-mail requests as well.

In all cases, if you agenda matches theirs, information is forthcoming, often surprisingly quickly.

The people at RoadSafetyBC spent a lot of effort assisting me in creating a unit on the Enhanced Road Assessment for my ElderCollege course.

However, ask if there has been any follow up research on 2015's B.C. Communities Road Safety Survey to see if there have been improvements and the e-mail enters a black hole.

At this point, I would even be happy with an auto response telling me that my message has been received. It would be a simple matter to include information about how requests are triaged and what to do if a response is not received within a reasonable amount of time.

When I was working in traffic enforcement, I was occasionally reminded by the driver I was dealing with that they were the ones who paid my wages.

I did work for them, but sometimes that work was not what they wanted me to be doing. Still, they had a point and I had an obligation.

Government seems to forget this, too.

On the other hand, I can imagine that with the ability to e-mail some government contacts being so simple, many of us do it. There must be a huge volume of e-mail to deal with and people do make mistakes.

To come full circle to the PAC request, if they considered their crossing-guard program and decided that it was the best solution, they should be prepared to persist in the face of silence.

The group should not quit until they are either successful or are shown that there is a better way to deal with the problem.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/government/ignore-them-theyll-go-away



Making safe lane changes

Mirror, signal, shoulder check, move.

These are the four steps for a successful lane change. Simple enough one would expect, until you watch what goes on around you in traffic today. This is a basic skill that a driver should be confident practising once they have left the novice stage behind.

Unless a lane change is forced by an emergency, the first step in changing lanes is to think ahead and plan your move.

Scanning well in advance for changes in traffic or anticipating your exit gives you the time to execute a lane change safely, without affecting the travel of another vehicle.

If you've left yourself an out, you can minimize the risk in an emergency as well.

You must signal every time you make a lane change. That signal, made before you begin to change, must be made for long enough that the drivers around you realize your intent.

The gap in traffic that you want to move into must be large enough. Ideally, you need at least a four-second gap, two seconds following distance for you and two seconds following distance for the driver behind you.

This assumes good driving conditions, otherwise the gap will need to be larger.

Can't see both headlights of the vehicle behind you in the next lane in your centre rear view mirror? Don't jam your vehicle into the space, leave your signal light on and monitor the gap.

Here's an opportunity for the driver behind to show that they know how to share the road. Rather than speed up and put everyone at risk, drop back and allow the change. It's a pay-it-forward moment.

Now, it's time for one last look around before you make your move. Traffic ahead of you is still moving, the gap to move into is still appropriate and there is nothing lurking in your blind spot. Do not rely on blind spot monitoring to do the job for you, a shoulder check is still required.

OK? Let's do it! Smoothly.

Many drivers will make lane changes where it is forbidden to do so.

It is illegal to make a lane change over a solid line at any time. Solid lines are marked at places such as crosswalk approaches or where merging traffic needs to gauge the surroundings before moving anywhere.

They say to the driver "Don't, it's not safe to change lanes here."

"Tell the other drivers that it's illegal to change lanes in an intersection" is something that I hear frequently. This is not the case in British Columbia unless it would be unsafe to make the change.

A defensive driver will choose not to do this and it may also have negative consequences during a driving examination.

That's the short course for changing lanes safely.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/lanes/making-safe-lane-changes





Get your eyes on the road

#EyesFwdBC! It's distracted driving campaign time. ICBC tells us that distracted driving is responsible for 26% of collision fatalities in B.C. each year. On average, 76 people die each year in a crash where distracted driving is a contributing factor.

Every year, on average, according to police reported data from 2014 to 2018:

  • 26 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Lower Mainland.
  • 9 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes on Vancouver Island.
  • 29 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the Southern Interior.
  • 12 people are killed in distracted driving-related crashes in the North Central region.

Let's not forget that distracted driving is not something that is always connected with the use of an electronic device by the driver either. There are many other sources of distraction that take a driver's attention away from the task of driving. Anything that takes your hands off the wheel or your mind off of the task can be distracting as well.

The B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) have a stake in this as well. Chief Constable Neil Dubord is the chair of the BCACP Traffic Safety Committee and he contributes the following advice:

"Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue in our province – it's the number one cause of crashes. Police officers see distracted drivers on the roads in every community. We are stepping up efforts making sure people leave their phones alone while driving."

To round out the message, remember that your first ticket for improper use of an electronic device while driving will cost you a $368 fine and $252 for the four penalty points. Do it again within one year (about 1,335 of us do) and you are looking at a bill for just over $2,500.

I often wonder whether these campaigns get through to the people that they are aimed at. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation they do make a difference:

  • reduced the number of road incidents by approximately 9%
  • increased seatbelt use by 25%
  • reduced speeding by 16%
  • increased yielding behaviour by 37%
  • increased risk comprehension by about 16%

However, they must be coupled with legislation, enforcement and education, which our government and ICBC tries to do.

There is also some indication that local, personally directed campaigns that show by far the biggest effect on road accidents. So, thank you for reading this. Hopefully you take something away from doing so that results in the reduction of your crash risk.

This story also appears on DriveSmartBC.



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



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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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