British Columbia School & Playground Zone Guide for Drivers

BC School and Playground Zones

News flash: There are some new 24-hour school zones in Langley, BC. Opens in a new tab.

Quick & Dirty Snapshot of BC School/Playground Zones

The quick and dirty: school zone signs are in the shape of a house, and are in effect 8 AM – 5 PM on school days unless otherwise posted, including posted summer school days; playground zone signs are in the shape of a diamond and are in effect dawn to dusk, every single day of the year.

School and playground speed zones tend to confuse people

School and playground zones can confuse many people, especially those going for road tests during summer or winter holidays.

People fail road tests for driving too slowly when they aren’t in a school zone, or, for driving too fast because they didn’t notice they were in one. Let’s talk about school and playground zones in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

School zone Atlin, British Columbia
Playground Zone in Atlin, Beautiful British Columbia

Contents:

  1. British Columbia Official School Zone Sign
  2. What Time Are BC School Zones In Effect?
  3. Notice The Color of the Speed Tab
  4. Other Yellow Speed Signs
  5. ICBC School Zone Signs
  6. School Zone Sign Without Speed Limit
  7. Where Does The School Zone End?
  8. Burnaby School Zones (7 am – 10 pm)
  9. Playground Zones in British Columbia
  10. What Is a Playground Zone?
  11. Playground Zone Sign Without Speed Limit
  12. School & Playground Zones FAQ
  13. What is “Dusk”?
  14. Children on Highway Road Sign
  15. Do You Have To Drive 30 During Spring Break & Summer?
  16. Summer School Signs
  17. Conclusion

1. The Official British Columbia School Zone Sign

School Zone Sign

Here is the classic school zone sign. Notice the shape of the sign. It looks a bit like a house, and the sign has the 30 km/hr tab underneath. The speed limit is on a sign with a white background, so we know that’s a regulation sign.

School zone sign British Columbia
North Vancouver, British Columbia

The school zone sign is the only sign that uses this particular shape. In other words, you’ll never see a sign with this shape, saying “Stop” or anything else on it. This is the dedicated shape of the school zone sign for British Columbia.

2. School and Playground Zones – What Time Are School Zones In Effect In BC?

School zones in British Columbia are in effect from 8 am until 5 pm unless otherwise posted (On occasion I’ve seen school zones with unconventional hours, such as 7 AM to 7 PM for a school that had a lot of extra-curricular sports activities always going on.) Burnaby is one example of a city that has changed its school zone hours to 7 AM until 10 PM on school days.

3. Notice The Color Of The Speed Tab

Since the 30 km/hr sign is white and black, it’s the law. In other words, 30 km/hr is the non-negotiable maximum speed limit during the posted school hours (8 am – 5 pm on school days in this case).

If hours are not posted, but the 30 km/hr tab is, then you’re to assume the hours of 8 am till 5 pm.

4. You may have seen these yellow speed signs

Note the difference here on this yellow and black sign.

  • The white and black speed sign is the law
  • The speed sign with the yellow background isn’t law; it’s a smart idea, but not the law
  • Check out some more info on the road signs, road lines, and pavement markings
Sharp curve ahead yellow road sign

5. School Zone Signs as per ICBC’s Learn To Drive Smart Manual

School & Playground Zone Signs

ICBC Learn to drive smart Booklet School Zones
ICBC Learn to Drive Smart Booklet Opens in a new tab.

6. School Zone Sign Without Speed Limit

Sometimes people get confused when they see these school and playground signs without a speed limit tab attached.

Simply, if there’s no speed limit attached to the sign, then the speed limit on the road you are on doesn’t change because of the sign. Your job as a driver is to read the road signs, not to be psychic!

School zone sign British Columbia
You can always slow down if you see a good reason, but for signs without speed limits, the speed limit does not change. The speed limit is whatever the speed limit is for the road you are already on.

7. Where Does The School Zone End?

Backs of Road Signs

If you want to figure out where the school and playground zones end, then look for the back of the sign. It’s a very particular shape. You will find it on the opposite side of the road for the traffic facing you.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this is a little bizarre, and would rather just have another sign to indicate the end of the zone. But this is just the way it is around here.

I guess it makes sense; it just feels strange to try to be searching bushy and hard-to-see areas on the opposite side of the road. I thought there would be somewhere better for my eyes to be looking, you know?

End of School Zone British Columbia
ICBC Learn to Drive Smart Booklet Opens in a new tab.

8. A Different Type Of School Zone In Burnaby

Burnaby School Zones Are Now in Effect From 7 am Until 10 pm

Burnaby has some interesting school and playground zones. It recently (March 2021) updated its city’s school zone laws, and has shiny new signs to go with them.

The new laws indicate that the school zones are in effect from 7 am until 10 pm.

This is true for all of Burnaby city, but of course, just go by the signs as you are driving.

Burnaby isn’t the first or only city to change its school zones. Vancouver also made some changes to theirs.

9. Playground Zones in British Columbia

10. What Is A Playground Zone?

A playground zone in BC is a 30 km/hr speed zone where there may be children nearby. By law, drivers must not exceed 30 km/hr during playground zone hours. The playground hours are simply dawn till dusk, every day of the year.

  • Playground zone signs are found around places where there may be children playing
  • They are in the shape of a diamond
  • They are in effect dawn till dusk, every day, 365 days per year

Playground Zone Sign

British Columbia Playground Zone Sign
Playground Zones speed limit BC

11. Playground Zone Sign Without Speed Limit

Technically speaking, this playground sign without a speed tab isn’t a playground zone. It’s a ‘Playground Nearby’ sign. Since there is no speed limit attached to the sign, the speed limit on the road you’re on doesn’t change.

Don’t overthink this whole thing: it literally means, “Hey you, there’s a playground nearby, and there might be children and stuff nearby, so please make sure to pay attention to the road like for real. Thank you kindly.”

Just be on the lookout for kids and slow down if you think you should.

Playground Sign without Speed limit

12. School & Playground Zones FAQ

If Playground Zones Are In Effect Dawn Till Dusk – How Do I Know If It’s Dusk? Sometimes It Is Getting Dark, But I’m Not Sure If It’s Dusk

13. What is Dusk? Think Of Dusk as ‘Almost Dark’

Dusk may be defined as partial darkness between day and night; the dark part of twilight.

Since there’s no sign telling us when exactly it is officially ‘dusk’ we must use judgment. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution, or go 40 km/hr. Yes, I just said that. Any reasonable human being driving 40 km/hr makes a compelling argument that this is an appropriate speed for a grey area.

  • Consider the consequences of driving 30 km/hr vs. those of driving faster
  • Consider also the visibility in the playground zone and the presence (or obvious lack) of children
  • Consider other relevant conditions
what is dusk for playground zones BC

14. Question About Speed Restriction When Children On Highway Road Sign

School and Playground Zones ‘When Children On Highway’

Question: I have a question about school and playground zones. Sometimes I see the playground zone speed limitation. Once I was driving around a playground in Maple Ridge, and the sign says “30km/h when children on the highway”.

I could see children playing inside the playground, but they’re nobody actually on the road or the shoulder, so should I drive at 30 or 50?

14. Black And White Signs

According to the motor vehicle act,

Was it a black and white (regulation, i.e. not optional) speed tab sign like this, attached to a playground sign?

You only ‘have to slow down to the posted speed when the child/children are on the road or shoulder in this case.

children on highway sign

15. Do You Have to Drive 30 km/hr During Spring Break and Summer?

What’s the speed limit in a school zone after school hours?

Spring break, winter break, summer break, or any kind of school break always causes a lot of confusion for new drivers and sometimes for experienced drivers, too. And what about after school hours, like evenings and weekends?

The true story is, school and playground zones aren’t the same. School zones are in effect between 8 am and 5 pm unless different days/times are posted, during school days only. This includes summer school days, which have an obvious sign. It literally indicates, “Summer School in Session” under the regular school zone sign, as an extra tab usually.

Playground zones (the ones that actually include the 30 km/hr speed tab) are in effect every single day of the year from dawn to dusk unless otherwise posted.

16. Spring And Other School Breaks And School Zones

During spring break, winter break & summer break, the speed limit in school zones is the usual limit for the particular road you’re on. For example, this may be 50 km/hr in the city unless otherwise posted.

Playground zones are in effect every day of the year, from dawn to dusk.

16. Summer School Signs in Beautiful British Columbia

These are normal school zone signs but they have an additional ‘summer school’ tab posted right onto the school zone sign in a very obvious way.

Summer school sign British Columbia

So these would be 8 am to 5 pm on summer school days unless a sign indicates something else like this one does. Most likely Monday to Friday I reckon, but you just never know. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution.

Conclusion

School and playground zones often perplex new drivers, especially during summer when there may be summer school, or children obviously playing at lots of different parks, playgrounds, and schools.

The thing to remember is that you’re not supposed to be psychic. I can’t tell you the number of times student drivers asked me, “There’s a chunk of grass, with a kid playing on it. Is it a playground zone?”

Just like any other time you’re driving, your job is to pay attention to the road signs and follow their instructions. If you see an area where kids are playing but there are no speed signs, then you aren’t officially in a speed zone.

However – just like any other time you are driving – you can always slow down if you think it’s a good idea for that particular moment. It’s part of being a good defensive driver.

British Columbia School Zones, Play...
British Columbia School Zones, Playground Zones, 30 KM Zones
During summer, school zones are not in effect, unless they have an obvious ‘summer school’ tab attached. Playground zones are in effect from dawn till dusk, every single day of the year, unless different times/hours/days are posted.

Oh and one more thing: by the time your vehicle gets to the playground zone or school zone sign, your vehicle needs to be going a maximum of 30 km/hr already.

Many student drivers ask if you must slow down before you see the sign, or after you see the sign. The answer is before so that your car is going the legal limit once your car reaches the post that the sign is on.

That’s just good to know, especially for road tests. Similarly, do not speed before you are out of the speed zone. Wait until your vehicle is actually past the end of the zone sign to increase speed.

Questions or comments? Leave a thought in the comments section below, and I respond to all comments.

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Cover photo credits:

Carmen

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

79 thoughts on “British Columbia School & Playground Zone Guide for Drivers

  1. WHY DID MY FRIEND FAIL HIS ROADT TEST WHEN HE WAS DRIVING ONLY 35KM/H IN PLAYGROUND ZONE (DIAMOND SHAPE) WITH NO POSTED SPEED AT 10AM? IT WAS MARKED AS A VIOLATION.

    1. There are places where you can enter a 30 km/h playground zone but never really exit it – there is just no sign on the left side. And it works the other way – you just make a few turns and suddenly you see a playground zone sign on the left side. In the test I ended up driving at 30 km/h all the way until exiting the neighborhood and passed with flying colors, but what’s the correct way of handling such situations?

      1. I’m not sure what you mean, maybe you can show me on the map where you’re talking about … whenever I’m driving I find it pretty clear to understand where these zones stop and start … let me know where you were ..!

        1. Start here: https://maps.app.goo.gl/gjviEWcT7KNvQGfQ8

          Then go uphill to the Battle St. W, take a left turn and technically it’s still a playground zone. But the fun still goes on: take the 1st right turn onto the Boundary Rd and then a left turn onto the Grandview Terrace – and with this route the playground zone still continues :-).

  2. Hi,
    I moved to BC from Calgary .. there it is a ticketable offence to PASS at anytime in a school (& possibly playground) zone EVEN if you are doing the speed limit of 30km. (I’m talking when there are 2 lanes heading same way) I found out about it b/c a friend got a ticket for that & I saw someone get one .

    Q: Is that the case here? I see people passing often, esp. in specific area & can be dangerous if we don’t see a child ..

  3. Hi,
    I moved to BC from Calgary .. there it is a ticketable offence to PASS at anytime in a school (& possibly playground) zone EVEN if you are doing the speed limit of 30km. (I’m talking when there are 2 lanes heading same way) I found out about it b/c a friend got a ticket for that & I saw someone get one .

    Q: Is that the case here? I see people passing often, esp. in specific area & can be dangerous if we don’t see a child ..

  4. hey I was wondering when you come to a sign that says 30 when kids are present is it illegal to drive 30 or is that illegal? do I have to drive 50 until I see kids asking because I failed my road test I only slowed down to 40 but they were hiding behind trees. would it be illegal to drive 30 through there!

    1. Hi, I failed for the same reason. It is not fair. I did all my best for every other thing. Only this reason, even though I told him that I know the rule but there are lots of kids around, he did not listen to me. Tomorrow I will have another road test and I am so nervous, that I could not know what the examiner wants me to do.

  5. Hi Carmen,
    My son has attempted several road tests with no luck. I am quite comfortable driving with him now so I would say he’s pretty competent behind the wheel.
    Is it helpful prior to beginning a road test to let the examiner know that you have tried many times to get your N. Do they care at all if you
    experience nervousness under the gaze of an examiner?

    1. Hi!!
      Sorry to hear about that. I think they are well aware that everyone is nervous. It would be weird if someone wasn’t. I think every test lives in its own vacuum. For sure You can let them know if you like, but they still have to judge the driver based on their behaviour on the current test. There were several students when I worked at the driving school who went through the full training program and multiple instructors signed off on them being perfectly capable, (i.e. the instructor would feel fine going to sleep while that driver was driving; in theory you know) and then they failed the road test 8 or 9 times. Some people just get very nervous. So just keep trying if you are sure that’s the problem, or, you could get 1 assessment lesson from a reputable driving instructor to check their driving skills. Not sure if he’s had any lessons, but The driving they are looking for on the road test is quite specific and detailed, and can differ quite a lot from common conceptions. Even I was nervous as a driving instructor when I went to get my Class 4 license. It’s really scary when someone is watching your every move. I hope that helps..

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