Yielding on Left Turns

Left Turn CrashA driver from Rutland e-mailed with a concern regarding the intersection of Nickel Road and Highway 33. Highway 33 is five lanes wide with a two way left turn lane in the middle and Nickel Road is a two lane residential street. She regularly stops and waits to turn left off of Highway 33 onto Nickel Road and is horrified when through traffic on the highway stops to allow her to make the turn.

She was involved in a crash in this intersection, one of sixteen between 2017 and 2021, when an oncoming driver stopped and waved for her to complete her turn. A driver in the lane beside the polite motorist failed to yield the right of way and struck her.

She raises two issues, the danger to left turn drivers in this situation and also the risk to the drivers who yield being struck from behind.

Left Turns Are Dangerous

It's always dangerous when you turn left in an intersection. You usually have to cross over opposing lanes of traffic which leaves you vulnerable in a crash. It also exposes you to drivers who would never think that they might have to yield and let you turn left.

How it is Supposed to Work

The rule in B.C. for turning left at an intersection requires that you yield to any opposing traffic in or approaching the intersection so closely that it would be an immediate hazard. Once you have done this, opposing traffic must now yield to you and allow you to make your left turn.

How it Actually Works

Never, ever expect the opposing drivers to follow this rule, even if you are at an intersection controlled by traffic lights that have turned yellow. In fact, this may be one of the more dangerous times to try and turn. Drivers wanting to get through before the red may not be watching for you.

Make Sure Everyone is Stopped

The tendency of most drivers is simply to carry on if there is an empty lane in front of them. Little or no thought is given to why that vehicle ahead is slowing down or stopped. Many pedestrians and drivers trying to turn have found this out the hard way.

Even if you have the right of way, do not proceed until it is safe to carry out the movement! If you can't see, you can't go.

Wait For a Red Light

If you are at an intersection with traffic lights, it would be far safer to wait for them to turn red and have all the opposing traffic to stop before making your turn. In this situation you have right of way over cross traffic facing the green light to do so.

This assumes that you have properly entered the intersection on the green light to prepare for the turn.


Left turns

As a licenced truck instructor and when I was a fleet driver trainer for a large Canadian fleet based in BC I had to be very careful when evaluating and coaching drivers to make sure they were aware of what was required for each jurisdiction they were in.  In BC it was taught that large vehicles such as semis and buses fininshed left turns in the second from left lane (if there were more than one lane each way) as they usually needed that much room to turn anyway and that is the lane they were expected to be travelling in.  Unfortunately car drivers think that if truck and bus drivers do this that they can too.  In Alberta even trucks with trailers were expected to finish their turn in the left most lane just like cars.  I agree that this is an excellent place to keep tuned up on what is going on in the driving world.

Observation & Preparation is Key

Yes, (again) I agree this is a hard choice, especially for new drivers.

When I was teaching GLP students, I would refer them to that section, then offer that if they followed the letter of the law and always yielded the intersection to left turning vehicles, they would probably be involved in a few crashes -  mostly by being hit from behind.

What is behind is at least as important as what is in front, if not more so.

I suggested to them that if it was not clear behind that, or if there was any doubt a tailing vehicle would / could stop, they should:

1 - Always watch ahead. Don't be caught by surprise when someone suddenly turns

2 -  Make eye contact with the driver in the turning vehiclevif you can,

3 - Continue through. (The light will eventually change and the turning vehicle can safely turn)

4 - Make a decision. Do NOT hesitate (slow down then speed up, or speed up, then stop, Etc).

5 - Keep alert in case the driver suddenly turns.  A rear end crash would probably hurt less than a head on.

Always fun out there, isn't it?

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