Colorful Road Signs Of Canada
Ready to learn about road signs of Canada? This will be just a brief introduction to the colors and shapes. Canada road signs are divided by color, so you can tell a lot about a sign by that alone. You can also tell a lot by the different shapes. Let’s jump right into the details.
White & Black & Red Canada Road Signs
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 positively 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 Canada Road Signs
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 car race. Just something I noticed one day while day dreaming.
Driving On the Shoulder Yellow Road Sign
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?
Obviously ‘don’t drive on the shoulder’ means this: 🤣 I mean, 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 and check your mirrors & shoulder check 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).
Grade % Slope Sign
Ever wondered what this road sign means?
Basically it means that for every 100 units (km, for example) you go straight, you decline by 8 units (km).
In other words, there’s a huge ass hill coming up soon, so be prepared.
Freeway & Highway Signs
Green Highway Signs
Green signs are typically for destinations and route numbers.
Blue Highway Signs
Blue signs are often for services and attractions such as food, hotel, gas, camping, boat launch, rest area, etc.
Orange Canada Road Signs
Orange signs are for construction, maintenance, and/or something of a temporary nature. Be sure to watch for traffic control people and follow their directions.
Reminder About Turning Restriction Signs & Sign Location
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.”
See also: School and Playground Zones
Read more from ICBC: Learn To Drive Smart: Signs, Signals & Road Markings
Carmen C. is the founder of DrivingInstructorBlog.com After becoming an ICBC-GLP (Graduated Licensing Program) driving instructor at the age of 22, she worked for about 8 years teaching driving lessons in beautiful North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
In 2012 she decided to pour her knowledge into a website and share this information with the world! 🌎 She no longer teaches, but enjoys writing and maintaining this blog, creating abstract art when inspired, and photography.