Is it legal to exceed the Advisory Speed Limit in Canada?

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  • 12
    if it wasn't, it would be a plain speed limit, not an advisory one.
    – njzk2
    May 14 at 12:17
  • @njzk2: Seems a fair question to me; it's possible it could be like a true speed limit which applies to the next curve, so they won't need a sign to revert the speed limit back to the normal one after the curve or ramp. Names don't always match how things actually work. May 14 at 18:28
  • 2
    Conceivably, the answer could be different in all 13 jurisdictions. Traffic laws are provincial, not federal. May 14 at 21:14
  • 2
    Some States in the US have vague enough laws that things like "reckless diving" and "too fast for conditions" can be cited very liberally. I'd bet Canada is similar, leaving you mostly at the traffic cop's mercy, despite the letter of the law.
    – user27701
    May 16 at 1:03
  • Isn't this a language question, more than a traffic or legal one?
    – gidds
    May 16 at 13:51

3 Answers 3


Yes, it's legal to ignore it. However, if you do and cause an accident, you're at fault.

Drive Smart BC:

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.

  • 2
    Similarly evil to the "Richtgeschwindigkeit" (recommended speed) on German Autobahns then.
    – towe
    May 15 at 10:05
  • 6
    "you're at fault" that seems very strong wording, compared to the random website's "but anything that happens because the signs are not given consideration may be an offence" - which anyway does not seem to be law ?
    – Fattie
    May 15 at 12:26
  • @towe Very similar, except that in Germany this is a country-wide speed and no explicit signs exist.
    – Tom
    May 15 at 15:59
  • 3
    I don't know about the details of Canadian traffic law, but in the United States, you're expected to drive at a "reasonable and prudent speed" regardless of the limit. Driving faster than the advisory speed is strong evidence that your speed was not "reasonable and prudent".
    – Mark
    May 15 at 22:38
  • 1
    If you're at fault is true, then this is absolutely not like in Germany. Yes, in Germany there is the "Richtgeschwindigkeit" of 130km/h on Autobahnen, but popular cases where people were involved in accidents while driving 200km/h show that they got convicted to carry like 20-30% or so of the damage caused. adac.de/verkehr/recht/verkehrsvorschriften-deutschland/…
    – AnoE
    May 16 at 7:52

An upcoming condition requires most vehicles to slow.

That's what the sign is saying. You, as Pilot-In-Charge, get to examine the roadway, situation and conditions to determine whether another speed is appropriate, within the white-sign posted limits. This may be LESS than the yellow-sign limits!

I hardly need to tell you what to do with good sightlines on a clear dry day with a Lotus Formula 3. Tee hee!

However, it's perfectly possible in adverse conditions for even the advisory speed to be too fast. If you're in marginal icing conditions with a curve on a bridge, then yeah. So really, the number on the sign is barely useful: the valuable information is authorities thought it was worth C$500 to put it there.

The government has done their part by warning you of the deviant condition, now it's all on you.

That is also why they generally don't have an "End advisory speed zone" - this should be obvious to the competent driver. If it isn't obvious, that means you can't see well enough to ascertain that - so caution remains called for.

Success talks

Violating the sign isn't an infraction of its own. If you drive a speed below the speed limit and even below the advisory speed, and yet still have an accident related to speed, you will probably be guilty of "careless driving" in the form of "too fast for conditions". Some jurisdictions break those out as separate infractions.

So in that sense, you violated the sign, even if you literally conformed with the sign.

But if you make it through safely, without offending the sensibilities of an observing officer, you're fine.

E.g. British Columbia law here, see 144 and 146 permitting authorities to set speed limits and link to document specifying how regulatory limits must be signed in order to have force of law. It is difficult to prove a negative but note that the canonical list of regulatory signs does not include a yellow speed sign. See also advisory/warning signs: ours is at page 23.

Looking at both, you may catch that every regulatory sign is white* and every advisory/warning sign is yellow. This is a USA/Canada standard.

* Except for stop/yield, which have entirely unique shapes not reused for other signs. Or night driving signs which are standard black/white inverted (rather clever UI really).

  • I wouldn't say the values on the sign are meaningless, but instead figure that the figures would probably be about right for night time conditions during a light rain. If weather is worse than that, one should go slower; if conditions are more favorable, one may go faster.
    – supercat
    May 15 at 18:12
  • 2
    @Harper-ReinstateMonica: I've never driven a semi, but would guess that they probably handle in good conditions about as well as a car in light rain. The key point is that the posted number is intended to be a safe speed for most vehicles in most situations, rather than being low enough to be safe for all vehicles in all conditions, or representing the highest value that could be safe for even the best vehicle in the best conditions.
    – supercat
    May 15 at 18:32
  • 2
    The way I interpret advisory sign is that "upcoming road is complex, you should pay more attention to the road and how your vehicle is handling rather than the number on your dashboard, but this number is what you'll expect to drive in a good condition". Lower number than you'd naturally drive for that section implying that the road is probably significantly more treacherous than it might appear, or that there's some hidden danger that might not be obvious.
    – Lie Ryan
    May 16 at 1:54
  • Aren't the night speed limit signs (white writing on black) regulatory? May 16 at 14:42
  • @Andrew Yeah they are but interesting. DOT calls them out, I just haven't seen one in an age. Southeast or New England thing? May 16 at 20:59

Traffic related laws are provincial in Canada. It is probably more productive to ask legal questions at the law stackexchange.

This 2016 Globe and Mail article corresponded with the transportation ministries of various provinces in Canada.

Their finding was that it is legal to exceed advisory speed signs -- commonly found at curves that lead onto or out of main highways.

Contrary to the accepted answer, there is no warning of "at fault" or not based on the correspondences with transportation ministry spokespersons

The explanation from some transportation ministry spokespersons strongly suggest that the advisory speeds ultimately correspond to a certain lateral G your vehicle may experience at the curve -- that would be why angle and curvature need to be considered.

Contrary to some other answers, it would be unreasonable to think the advisory speed is a strict safety limit, easily affected by weather conditions, for all cars. Vehicles have very different handling characteristics. While lightly loaded passenger cars with new tires may take 0.9G before skidding (same as breaking), a truck may roll over ever at the same G even if skidding does not occur. It would be extremely hazardous to post advisory speeds as safety limits only for small passenger cars, which would cause confusion and accidents for large trucks. On the same token then, it is unreasonable to think an advisory sign compatible with all traffic on the road would be the strict safety limit for passenger cars.

What should you do in practice?

That depends on your vehicle. Assuming a regular passenger car, a good way to use the sign is to follow it strictly at interceptions that you have not driven to before or in large vehicles or in vehicles whose handling you are uncertain of. As you develop familiarity with a certain area, you can apply a certain ratio to the advised as long as you are driving the same car (same tire, same load). With passenger cars, your ratio is likely above 1. (With trucks, often below!)

I know my car is safe driving at ~1.5x the advisory speed in the highway exits/entrances I usually drive in; on regular road with sharp turns, there is no uniform ratio, so just x1. That is, at those speeds, I don't need to worry about needing to break due to curvature and thus don't need to worry about whether there is another vehicle behind me. It doesn't mean I should max out the skidding limit of my tires at all times, which would be silly. It means I wouldn't worry about skidding as long as I am well below the ratio I know. If I drive to a new area, however, just in case the implicit G is not strictly equal, I would more closely follow the advised speed. If there is another vehicle closely behind me, I would also follow the advised speed -- that way we both slow down; I know I don't need to break due to road curvature and they don't have to react. If I haven't changed tires for a long time, I would reduce the ratio.

  • Presumably you will be found at fault if you drive unsafely. Unsafe driving may or may not be correlated to driving faster or slower than the speed on the yellow sign.
    – user253751
    May 16 at 16:36

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