Regulatory and Advisory Signs

Speed SignDrivers 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. So, 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 and directional instructions. Failure to obey these signs is an offence and the driver may be charged if they choose not to follow the instruction.

An advisory sign is just that, advice that you may choose to take or ignore as your experience and the conditions dictate. Examples of advisory signs are the speed tabs found under curve signs or the slow sign displayed by flag persons. Failure to obey these signs 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 Center (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. This information is also available on ICBC's web site at

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Confused? No reason for it!

The signage in this country has to be the simplest to understand anywhere, to my mind.

If it's in black & white, then it's a Rule.  Law.  Regulation.  Like that.  Might be a sign, might be a stripe or arrow on the roadway, or even something like a stop line or crosswalk.

If it's in black & yellow, then it's a warning or advisory.  In the case of signs, usually provided ahead of whatever the engineers are warning of (exceptions being those stripy obstruction signs, or height limit of an overpass).

Beats the heck out of any other system, in terms of simplicity.  Particularly the use of a yellow stripe on the road to advise that you're on a two-way street.

slow curve signs

Ah, so this is why those slow curve signs are so often overkill and all the people behind me pile up when I follow what I thought was the speed limit. This is on the highway between Monte Creek and Falkland. Lotta twists and turns the locals are very used to and I'm not.

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