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Behind-the-Wheel

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

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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

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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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