We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Do you really know your road markings?

September 13, 2013

Are you sure you know what each of these road-line patterns means? Driving instructor Steve Wallace has prepared a refresher just for you.  Photograph by: Times Colonist

Are you sure you know what each of these road-line patterns means? Driving instructor Steve Wallace has prepared a refresher just for you. Photograph by: Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, September 11th 2013

Road markings are often confusing not only to new drivers, but also many experienced drivers as well. Here is a refresher-reminder of their meaning.

Yellow centre road lines separate opposite flows of vehicular traffic. A broken yellow centre line on a two-way road means passing is permitted when safe to do so.

Some drivers are surprised to learn that a single solid yellow centre line on a two-lane road also means passing is permitted “with extra caution.” Always be aware of a driver who attempts to pass when the centre line is solid. Many such drivers do not exercise the necessary “extra caution” required for such a pass.

Double solid lines mean no passing in any direction. A broken yellow line parallel to a solid means the traffic on the broken side of the road can pass when safe to do so. Traffic on the solid side of the configuration is not permitted to pass.

White centre lines separate traffic moving in the same direction. These lines are most noticeable on one-way streets. A solid white line means do not change lanes. A solid white line at the side of the roadway means drivers are not permitted to cross that line to go around someone turning left from the highway or roadway. Many municipalities have removed these lines because they cause bottlenecks when drivers are held up by left-turners on single-lane roads.

A thick solid white line at a stop sign means stop before the line. Intermittent vertical thick white lines designate crosswalk areas that are not accompanied by a stop sign or a normal traffic-light system. Drivers must stop when pedestrians intend to cross at these locations. Some more modern alternating yellow lights will be placed at these “zebra” style crosswalks to alert drivers to pedestrian traffic. It is not necessary to remain stopped until the lights have stopped flashing. Drivers may proceed once the pedestrians have cleared the intersection.

Parallel horizontal white lined crosswalks are at a traffic-light or stop-sign intersection. These parallel crosswalks are busier than “zebra” crosswalks. Drivers are more aware at parallel solid-lined crosswalks because of the predictability of large groups of inner-city pedestrians. Drivers often get accustomed to travelling through several “zebra” crosswalks without the presence of pedestrians and get lulled into a false sense of security when approaching them. Many more close calls happen at “zebra” crossings than at horizontally lined crosswalks where stopping at a sign or red traffic light is mandatory. Drivers must stop at stop signs, even when municipalities paint “zebra” lines in error, where solid crosswalk lines should be placed.

Many inner-city roads have a solid white line separating a diamond or bicycle symbol from the regular travelled portion of the road. These symbols show the type of traffic that is restricted to a particular lane. This special traffic flows in the same direction as regular traffic. Vehicle drivers may not drive in bicycle lanes except where dashed white lines are painted, usually close to intersections.

Yellow painted islands are there to tell drivers to stay to the right of the diagonal yellow stripes and to not drive on or over them. They are meant to act as imaginary boulevards.

Double broken yellow lines show lanes that are reversible. Overhead lane-control red/yellow/green lights will show drivers whether they can use each lane.

A two-way oncoming left-turn lane is designated by inside broken yellow lines accompanied by outside solid yellow lines. Drivers travelling in opposite directions share this lane for left turns. Drivers are permitted to make turns only and may not use this kind of lane to advance their forward travel.

So much for the refresher — hope you enjoyed it.


Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas. Steve is a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.

Serving Vancouver Island locations in:







© 2021 Wallace Driving School. All Rights Reserved.