7 Types of Traffic Signs on BC Highways


Speed Limit Sign

A large part of our job here at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is to make sure that BC’s highway system is safe and reliable for everyone who travels on it – from car poolers to commercial drivers. In order to do that job, we have to communicate information about the road ahead of you quickly and efficiently. While we have developed many ways to communicate road conditions with you (DriveBC, Dynamic Message Signs and Social Media come to mind), it’s the simple traffic sign which does most of the communication for us across the province, often in far less than 140 characters (Twitter plug!).

Traffic signs come in a variety of shapes and colours but the bottom line is that they all have something important to tell you.  They give you directions and tell you about routes, destinations and points of interest along the way. They also identify laws (think speed limits and stopping), and warn of hazards which may not be evident (like avalanche areas). We review our traffic signs regularly to make sure they are still effective and if we find that they are no longer doing the job they were intended to, we will remove them or replace them with improved signage. We try to keep sign usage to a minimum to make sure that motorists are not overwhelmed with information and can focus on the most important task at hand – driving safely.

1. Regulatory Signs (above) – Usually in black and white (but sometimes seen in red and white), these are the Rules of Road, as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, (aka the law). These are the stop and do not enter signs – the ones which communicate the message with little or no text. You know them, you obey them, and we love them.

2. Warning Signs – These signs are designed to call attention to potentially hazardous/dangerous conditions on or adjacent to a roadway. They say “HEY! WATCH OUT FOR THIS” in not so many words. Warning signs are yellow with black information.

Deer Sign3. Guide Signs – Show you the way home (or how to get away from it all) with route numbers, destinations, direction and distances as well as transportation and emergency services information displayed, usually on a green background with white writing.

Guide Signs4. Information Signs – These signs give you general information, such as points of interest, and geographical or cultural information. They tell you when to pull over for the perfect picture of your road trip, or where you can take a break and have a snack.

Stop of Interest5. Construction Signs – Alert you to construction ahead and how it is impacting the road. They tell you to slow down and be aware of changes to normal traffic patterns. They are fluorescent orange with black information.

Construction Signs6. Service and Attraction Signs – Also in blue and white to complement our information signs, these signs tell you where you might find food, gas, lodging, boat launching areas, Sani-stations as well as tourist attractions, such as: zoos, gardens, museums, artisans , even theme parks!

service and attraction signs7. Supplemental Traffic Signs – If our incredible catalogue of signs doesn’t hold just the right sign for the situation, we have a backup catalogue which includes everything else – such as: scenic routes, wine routes, environmental awareness signs, adopt a highway signs and farmer’s market signs – everything you need to know to make your next trip even better!

supplemental traffic signsSo, there you have it, a quick rundown of how we use traffic signs in BC. Do you have a question about traffic signs that we didn’t cover here? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Highway signs always show “Watch out for MotorCycles”

    Why not change it up and say “Share the road with Cyclists” or something like this.

    With more and more people training on the sea to sky highway between West Vancouver & Pemberton it would only make sense.

  2. Wondering if its possible to have seasonal road weight restriction signs posted a little bit before you turn onto a road, having a 70 percent sign after I’ve turned onto a road puts me in a dangerous position, do I drive on the road illegally, or do I turn around, putting traffic at risk and potentially causing damage to the road doing a tight turn? I almost found myself in this situation turning off of highway 97 onto braeden rd, but managed to get in touch with another driver on the radio who knew that there was a weight restriction in effect.

  3. Why is there no standard for dead-end road signs? I’ve seen:
    No Exit
    Dead End
    No Thru Road
    Cul-de-sac (and it’s green/white no-words variant)
    among others.

    Why is there no standard for these signs?

    • Hi Brian,
      Our ministry develops highway signs for the highways that are controlled by us. The original manual that we used was the American Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) however, when developing new signs, the ministry looks both to the Canadian MUTCD and American MUTCD.

      Municipalities in BC, for the most part just use the Canadian MUTCD, while some will use some of BC ministry signs. It should be noted that most signs in the Canadian MUTCD, have a history with the American MUTCD, however over the years the Quebec influence is to just use graphics with no language on signs. For example the Canadian MUTCD graphic of the Cul-de-sac that the Ministry added to its book…….. we added the “DEAD END term thinking not everyone would exactly know what the sign meant.

      Since signs in BC come from two sources (the MUTCD Manuals for the most part), there can be an expectation to see a variety of signs. This is much more so in urban areas, as they control the city streets while the Ministry controls the highways.