If you are looking to understand road signs of Canada, look no further. Road signs can be understood by their shapes, and also their colours. Or, read about the road lines instead.
Jump to a section:
- White, Black, & Red Road Signs
- Regulation Signs
- How Can You Tell if There Will be a Turning Lane?
- Yellow Signs
- Yellow Signs & Yellow Speed Signs
- Playground Zone With Speed Tab
- Playground Zone Sign Without Speed Tab
- Checkers (End of the Road)
- Driving On The Shoulder
- What’s a Soft Shoulder?
- Grade (Slope)
- Freeway & Highway Signs (Blue & Green)
- Orange Signs (Construction & Temporary)
- Reminder About Turning Restriction Sign & Sign Location
White & Black & Red Road Signs Of Canada
Black & White & Red Signs Are Regulation Signs
Any combination of black, white, and red signs are regulatory signs. This means if you disregard what is on the sign, you’re breaking the law.
Let’s look at this typical speed sign example. You never have to drive at the speed that is on the sign; you just can’t legally drive faster.
Canadians speak in metric, so any Canadian speed sign is in kilometers (km).
- 1 mile = 1.6 km
- 1 km = 0.6 km
- Metric conversions calculator
Keep in mind it’s always up to the driver to decide an appropriate speed, based on conditions.
Examples of conditions are weather, road conditions, driver experience, condition of vehicle, condition of the tires, condition of the driver, etc.
How Can You Tell If There Will Be a Turning Lane?
Check for black and white signs hanging above and before intersections. These can help a lot with knowing which lane goes where.
Yellow Road Signs Of Canada
Signs with yellow backgrounds are warning signs; usually about upcoming hazards. Most warning signs are in the shape of a diamond.
A speed sign on a yellow background is a recommendation; not law.
However, there is a big difference between recommendations and decorations, if you know what I mean.
It’s a good idea to stick to the speed on the sign. But if you go 5 km more for example, you aren’t breaking any law like you would be if the sign were on a white background. Hope that made sense.
In the following example, the road will curve to the right up ahead. If you’re looking far ahead in this case, maybe it’s obvious that there’s a curve in the road. But maybe it’s not so obvious in the dark.
These are called chevrons. Not too different from the Chevron station sign, eh?
If there is no speed advisory tab, it means that for this particular curve, you should be able to go the speed limit without any issues whatsoever (providing for conditions, of course).
In other words, you only need to slow down for a curve if there’s a warning sign ahead of the curve. Otherwise, the curve is not extreme enough to warrant slowing down, according to them transportation engineers. But of course, think for yourself and be extra careful in unfamiliar places.
Yellow Signs & Yellow Speed Signs
Yellow speed signs have been a colossal source of confusion for student drivers in my experience. Going by the colors, any sign on a yellow background is a warning sign. For example:
The Following sign warns of a crosswalk ahead, that’s it
The speed limit doesn’t change because of this sign. It is just telling you to watch for a pedestrian crosswalk coming up soon. You can slow down if you see a good reason of course.
Playground Zone Sign With Speed Tab
This is a warning sign for a playground zone.
Since the speed tab is white and black and not yellow, it means you legally must slow to 30 km/hr when the playground zones are in effect.
This is every single day of the year from dawn until dusk unless otherwise posted.
Road Signs of Canada: Playground Nearby Sign Without Speed Tab
The following is a sign warning that there’s a playground nearby.
The speed limit does not change, because there’s no speed tab.
In other words, if a playground sign does not warn of a speed change, then the legal speed limit is still whatever it was before you saw the sign.
It’s simply warning you because there may be children nearby.
The End of the Road Checkers Sign
This is the ‘end of the road’ sign. In other words, there is no more road here.
Notice how it’s eerily similar in design to the checkered flag indicating the end of a Formula 1 car race. Just something I noticed one day while day dreaming.
Driving On the Shoulder – Yellow Road Signs Of Canada
This ‘soft shoulder’ yellow sign is a warning sign. You don’t necessarily have to slow down, because the sign does not indicate the need.
The following ‘do not drive on shoulder’ sign is a regulation sign. Its white and black colors make it so. If you drive on the shoulder, you’re breaking the law.
Road Signs Of Canada: What is a shoulder?
The shoulder is essential the edge of the road. It’s not a real lane.
We aren’t supposed to drive in it, ever. Sometimes people pull over to the shoulder in emergencies or for a flat tire situation; but this is not considered safe. The shoulder is often quite narrow.
A question from Shannon.
Q: I know to stay toward the center line when turning left, and the curb when turning right, or to merge into the bike lane if there is one. But what about turning right when there is a shoulder but no curb?
It seems reasonable to me to move over a bit into the shoulder, but the manual is very clear that “you may not drive on or across the shoulder or edge line of the road unless a sign permits it”, so I’m not sure what to do.
Good question! Generally, driving on the shoulder is a big no-no. It is not an actual lane intended for use by vehicles and is illegal in many places.
This is generally not a safe place to drive because no one expects you to be there, there may be stuff like nails and other sharp or random objects there, or there may be broken-down vehicles.
Or, the shoulder may be reserved as a bike lane, like it is on Highway 1 in West Vancouver. Never drive on the shoulder unless you are moving there in an emergency or your vehicle is breaking down.
In terms of turning right, drivers are expected to move toward the right – but not onto the shoulder – before turning.
Some drivers will go on the shoulder anyway, even when they aren’t supposed to, so be aware of your surroundings – practice defensive driving skills – and check your mirrors & shoulder check your blind spot before turning just in case.
Sometimes motorcycles drive in the shoulder to bypass traffic, but this is positively illegal.
What’s a Soft Shoulder?
Soft shoulder means that the pavement transitions into gravel/dirt at the shoulder or edge of the lane that you are driving in.
Usually, shoulders are ‘hard’ i.e. made of the normal pavement. So usually, if you drive a bit over the edge, nothing crazy will happen. However…
If your car goes off of the pavement and hits the soft shoulder, there is a possibility you could lose control of your car quite easily.
If you do find that you have somehow meandered onto the soft shoulder, the safest thing to do is to make sure you return to the pavement very gradually. Make no sudden movements; sudden movements here will bring on a sudden ‘adventure’ (not in a good way).
Road Signs Of Canada – Grade % Slope Sign
Ever wondered what this road sign means?
Basically it means that for every 100 units you go straight, you decline by 8 units.
In other words, there’s a huge hill coming up soon, so be prepared.
Road Signs Of Canada – Freeway & Highway Signs
Green Highway Signs in Canada
Green signs are typically for destinations and route numbers.
Road Signs Of Canada – Blue Highway Signs
Blue signs are often for services and attractions such as food, hotel, gas, camping, boat launch, rest area, etc.
Road Signs Of Canada – Orange Signs
Reminder About Turning Restriction Signs & Sign Location
Road Signs Of Canada – Details… Details
Any sign white, black, red, and green, or any combination of those colors is a regulation sign and refers to action you can or can not do Right Here, Right Now.
Notice a typical crosswalk sign. It means you are legally required to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk and the crosswalk is right here, at the same exact location as the sign.
This is as oppose to the yellow sign with the same symbol, which means, “There is a pedestrian crosswalk up ahead. Be prepared to scan and stop if there are pedestrians.”
Enter Holmes & E. Columbia/North Road in New Westminster. This turning restriction is for the lane, since it is posted at the lane, not the intersection. Drivers may still turn right at the intersection. It’s a white and black sign so it means “Do not turn right, right here” not “Do not turn right up there in 1/2 block.”
Road Signs Of Canada – Conclusion
Road signs of Canada are color coded so you can tell what kind of sign you’re dealing with by the color. Some colors are for regulation signs, which means you’d be breaking the law if you don’t follow the instructions on the signs.
Other signs are yellow and are meant as a warning, recommendation, or suggestion.
Blue and green signs are most commonly found on highways and freeways and mostly have to do with directions, exits, attractions, etc.
Lastly, orange signs are construction or temporary signs. Follow the instructions carefully because construction zones bring added hazards of course.
Besides the colors, you can tell a lot about road signs by their shapes. For example, the stop sign is the only sign with that shape. That shape sign will never say, for example, ‘GO,’ or anything else. It will always say ‘Stop.’ It will always be red.
This is good to know because as motorists we need to identify the ‘backs’ of signs in order to determine what the drivers facing us are seeing. This will give us a certain amount of confidence or educated guess as to what that driver is supposed to be doing or how they are supposed to be acting at a certain intersection or area.
Now that you’ve mastered road signs, why not brush up on your road lines? Those are just as important as the road signs of Canada. Drive safe!
See also: School and Playground Zones
Read more from ICBC: Learn To Drive Smart: Signs, Signals & Road Markings