Regulatory and Advisory Signs

example of regulatory speed signsDrivers are often confused about the difference between regulatory signs and advisory signs. 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?

Regulatory Signs

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.

If there is not a specific offence such as speeding or failing to stop for the regulatory sign, a traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control device may be issued to the driver.

Advisory Signs

An advisory sign gives advance notice of conditions on or adjacent to a highway that are potentially hazardous to traffic. A driver may choose whether or not to follow the suggestion given by the sign. Ignoring the advice is not an offence in itself, but anything that happens because the signs are not given consideration may be an offence.

A common advisory sign is the large diamond shaped sign shows a black arrow on a yellow background telling drivers of a curve ahead. Underneath it is a smaller square sign with black lettering on a yellow background showing a speed of 30 km/h.

The example of the curve was chosen to illustrate a point. We have often seen these signs and then travelled around the curve comfortably at speeds higher than that suggested. In those cases the shape of the curve and the road condition could accommodate the vehicle travelling at the higher speed.

So why was the speed warning there? Often it is because the driver's line of sight is restricted. This would prevent the driver from seeing and reacting to a hazard in or just beyond the corner unless the speed was at or less than that suggested. Heavy trucks may also be required to slow for the corner to prevent tipping over.

Black on Pink Signs

A relatively new (since 2012) advisory sign is black on a pink background. These signs warn of an emergency incident ahead and tell drivers to expect responders on the roadway. Proceed with caution as full temporary traffic control may not yet have been established.

Failure to obey an advisory sign is only an offence if something happens as a result of ignoring the advice and the offence is generally for the misadventure that occurs.

Learn to Drive Smart Guide

Need a quick brush up on what road signs mean? The signs, signals and road markings are explained in Chapter 3 of Learn to Drive Smart.

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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.

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.

Living in rural area of southeast Kelowna on Todd Road, I pass a sharp corner which is marked with a 40 km/h advisory sign. As I travel this corner almost daily I have found that it cannot be turned in safety at any more than 30 kmh, even that is faster than can be safely driven.

I pointed this out to a sign maintenance worker in the area and he replied “Yeah, I know, we ran out of 30 km/h signs.”