What constitutes a traffic control device?

Many traffic control devices

Amid the chaos of a collision scene came a call over my police radio, "Grab that vehicle, it just drove around the cones and into oncoming traffic!"

Not only did the emergency workers have to deal with a two-vehicle collision in an intersection full of emergency vehicles, they also had to contend with drivers who were going through no matter what.

The line of cones blocking the lane might not have been seen as something the driver needed to take meaning from in this situation. I was surprised to find how little our provincial driving manuals, Learn to Drive Smart and the Tuning Up for Drivers, have to say about following the instructions of temporary traffic control devices other than to think ahead and exercise care in a construction zone.

The single mention of a traffic cone was in Tuning Up for Drivers and involved using one as a marker to practice parallel parking.

A traffic control device can be many things, including a sign, signal, line, meter, marking, space, barrier or device. In this case, the cones would be considered a device and when placed across the lane are a traffic control device that bars traffic from proceeding.

There is a huge number of traffic control devices that we encounter when we drive every day. Signs are self-evident, but it sometimes seems the message conveyed by the type of lines or arrows painted on the roadway or lights, signs and barriers in construction zones or at a collision scene are either confusing for some drivers or are simply seen as a guideline rather that something that must be obeyed.

It's the driver's responsibility to know what any traffic control device they encounter while driving means and how to obey them.

Failing to obey a traffic control device may place yourself or others at risk and could result in a violation ticket. Currently that would mean a fine of $121 and two penalty points.

Should one drive into the oncoming lane toward a crash scene filled with emergency vehicles with flashing lights? Yes, if directed to do so by a person in authority when no other way exists to get past.

Otherwise, stop and wait, or as in this case, make a left or right turn and go around the block.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories