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Advisory Speed Signs and Speed Limit Signs

Speed signs -

Understand the Meaning of the Two Different Speed Signs

For your driver’s license or permit exam, you must know the difference between these two speed signs. One is a regulatory speed limit sign. The other is an advisory (recommended) speed sign.

Remember the Basic Colors

Black and white mean a regulation, yellow means a warning.

Regulatory speed limit signs are rectangular and have black letters and numerals on a white background. Speed limit signs tell you the legal allowable limits. You may drive at this speed when conditions allow, but basically you must not exceed the limit under any circumstances. (In Montana, you may exceed the speed limit with 10 mph when passing another vehicle on a two-way road.)

Advisory speed signs have black letters on a yellow background. Advisory speed signs are often seen under a warning sign and typically placed at sharp curves, exits, or exit ramps.

The Advisory Speed Sign

Advisory speed signs tell you that conditions ahead may make it unsafe to drive at a faster speed. You should slow down to the recommended speed. In bad weather or heavy traffic, you should reduce speed even more.

An advisory speed sign is not enforced in the same way as a regulatory speed limit sign.

You should, however, be aware that if you exceed the recommended speed and have an accident, it may be argued that you violated the basic speed law or general speed restriction and were driving too fast for conditions.

In such a situation, you could still be subject to arrest and a later conviction.

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  1. If a speed sign in a white box. In mandatory. Is a sign that says the on headlights in a white box a law?

    • Yes.

      Road signs with white background and black lettering are regulatory signs by law or local ordinance.

      Street Name Signs are the exception to this rule.

  2. My son was stopped going 38 in a 35mph just as he approached a curve with an advisory sign showing 25mph. He only received a warning but it’s an advisory sign not a speed limit sign. Should he appeal the warning?

    • Advisory speed signs aren’t enforced the same way as black-and-white speed limit signs. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t receive a warning or even a ticket.

      All states have a basic speed law, which says that your speed must be reasonable and prudent under existing conditions:

      Advisory speeds at curves and exit ramps are set to be “reasonable and prudent” under ideal conditions. If an officer issues a warning or a ticket, his (or her) opinion was that the speed wasn’t “reasonable and prudent”. Which he or she, of course, should have explained.

  3. When a speed limit sign says “begin” what exactly does that mean?

    Like saying your driving and you see the yellow warning sign that says “reduce speed to 35” then about 400ft ahead you see another sign that says “begin” “speed limit 35” and then like another 400ft it just says “speed limit 35”? This has been an ongoing debate with me and my spouse. What’s the answer?

    • “The BEGIN plaque may be used to supplement a regulatory sign to inform road users of the location where a regulatory condition begins.”

      In other words, when you see the speed limit sign (35 mph) with the BEGIN plaque this is where the new speed limit applies.

      Additional signs are often installed beyond major intersections and at other locations where it is necessary to remind drivers of the speed limit.

  4. Gary Lee Williams May 15, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    In Michigan, what is a reduced size b & w speed sign? Because it is black & white, I assume it is the official limit but why is it small?

    • Regulatory speed limit signs vary in size. Sizes are determined by Michigan Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD). Smaller sizes where they can be easily seen. The minimum size is 18 x 24 inches, compared to 30 x 36, which is the normal size on multi-lane roads. On freeways you may see larger signs, 48 x 60 inches. They have the same meaning, regardless of size.

  5. i got a speeding ticket for going 54 in a 35 mph zone but just passed the 35 mph waring sign that said 35 mph ahead but had not entered the 35 mph zone is this legal in nc

    • The reduced speed limit ahead sign doesn’t really say what the speed limit is at the sign (the speed sign that applies could been a mile away). If conditions where less than ideal, you could also have been speeding regardless of the posted speed limit.

      But it sounds like you had already entered the 35-mph speed zone? The zone can be pretty close to the warning sign, but there is always a black and white speed sign where the zone starts.

      • gregory d chapman November 12, 2017 at 7:43 pm

        i came out of a 55 mph limit into a 35 mph ahead ,the 35 mph speed limit sign was 2 tenths passed waring sign

      • If you haven’t paid the ticket yet, you should perhaps take it to court. Or at least, politely, get an explanation from the officer. You have a right to talk to the officer since you pay his salary. If you acted in a professional, civil way when you got the ticket, the officer will usually talk to you. But don’t argue your case, that’s what the court is for. Just get his view on the offense. It may help clear things up.

  6. Michelle Rohulich July 13, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    What’s the deal with the little arrow heads on top of a speed limit sign? Are they required before the speed limit changes?

    • I assume you mean the arrowhead that appear on the warning sign “Reduced Speed Limit Ahead” (see below). Such warning signs are not mandatory. They should, however, be used where the speed limit is being reduced by more than 10 mph, or where there is a need for advance notice because of sight distance or other circumstances. You should start slowing down when you get to this sign to be able to comply with the speed limit ahead.

      Reduced Speed Ahead

  7. Good day, I travelled on the N2 near Stanger and saw a 100km “restriction” in a RED circle inside a larger white square block/background with a RED square border. I was told that this meant to be a “recommended” speed. The overall speed limit was 120km(120 within a RED circle).
    The same is on Van Reenen Pass i.e. 80 in a RED circle within a white square with a RED border. Is this a fixed speed limit of 80km/hr or a recommende speed within the speed limit of 100km/hr.
    Thank you.

  8. Seems to be a straight forward way of preparation.

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