Why Are You on the Wrong Side of the Road?

Don't Make Me ThinkIf you watch one of Canada Post's community mailboxes for a day you will probably see someone drive up and cross over to the wrong side of road to get out and retrieve their mail. If the driver's arm is long enough they don't even have to get out to open the mailbox! Who cares about this sort of behaviour? After all, the mailboxes are often on quiet residential streets and doing this doesn't hurt anyone.

I ran into this rationalization often in traffic policing. Drivers would explain away their failure to follow the rules as being unimportant because they had done it many times before and nothing bad ever happened. My dilemma was, after many years of investigating collisions, I knew that this wasn't always the case. I had seen the consequences, but for these drivers, repeated decisions to drive improperly had become the new normal for them. In their view, the action had no concerns until I arrived and issued them a ticket.

I'm sure that Carel Scott would concur with my decision to ticket these drivers. She was on her way home to Nelson following an evening at Ainsworth Hot Springs. Paul Erikson had stopped in this manner to retrieve his mail and left his vehicle's headlights on high beam. Ms. Scott could not see the road due to the glare and assumed that she had to pass by to the right of the stationary SUV. Her vehicle left the road, rolled down an embankment and she was injured. Mr. Erickson was found fully at fault for the collision.

The moral of this story is that what you might consider to be a meaningless breach of the rules for your convenience could have significant consequences for other road users. The next time you are tempted to park on the wrong side, exceed the speed limit or slide through a stop sign, think again. You are not the only one using our highways and you have a duty of care to others.

Reference Links:


Thinking takes effort, and a sense of responsibility!

In the UK, drivers have long been accustomed to parking on whichever side of the road; legally too, within reason.  This was my street, when I was five years old ...

So ever since the late 1960s, every vehicle has been equipped with reflective license plates; white background on the front plate, yellow background on the rear, so you can not only see them, but also which way they're pointed.

There, you simply don't drive with your high beams on, in what they would term a 'built-up area'.  High beams are strictly for use away from towns and villages, when needed to cut through the darkness.  It makes sense; they have many minor roads with high hedges and no sidewalk or similar, so it's important for drivers to be able to spot hazards ahead.  (During WW2, due to the blackout, a terrible number of pedestrians were killed as they simply weren't seen, and had nowhere to go to get out of the path of oncoming cars with tape over the headlights.)

When I was 5 years old in the

When I was 5 years old in the UK the rule was that a car parked on the side of a road at night had to have lights. To avoid the battery going flat, instead of turning on the parking lights, you had a single-bulb light, red lens on one side and white on the other. This was secured by winding up a side window so it stuck out on the side of the car away from the sidewalk. It didn't matter so much which direction the car was facing as long as the red and white sides faced the right way, so an oncoming vehicle would not try to pass on the wrong side. Then the law was changed so that lights were not required on streets with street lighting, which made it more important to park the right way round, although this is often ignored.  

Besides the prohibition in Section 190 of the BC MVA, various BC municipalities have bylaws against parking facing the traffic.  Richmond has "...no person shall stop or park a vehicle on a highway other than parallel with the curb or edge of the roadway and headed in the direction in which traffic travels on that side of the highway and, ...". New Westminster is closer to the MVA wording when it says "A person shall stop or park a vehicle only on the right side of the street except except where travel is permitted in a single direction ..."

I assume the penalty may depend on whether you are ticketed by police under the MVA or a bylaw officer under the bylaw.

Another example of "I was just......"

I recall an incident on the outskirts of Lumby BC.  Many of us have done this and not considered anything wrong with the action.

A friend calls, or you are flagged down.  Someone has a dead battery on their vehicle.  They are stopped, correctly, at the side of the roadway and they need someone to "jump start them".   (battery cables from a running vehicle to a vehicle with a low battery)

Of course the battery on virtually every vehicle is in the front engine compartment necessitating two vehicle to be maneuvered nose to nose.

While the "operation" is being completed on the dark roadway, the headlights of the vehicle providing the "jump" are, of course confusingly facing towards oncoming traffic and on the wrong side of the roadway.

This confused an oncoming vehicle on the highway and there was a fatal collision.  Resulting in all sorts of injuries and of course the fatal injury and a huge law suit.

Expensive way to "save" money on a tow.

And no, helping a disabled driver by placing your vehicle on the wrong side of the roadway is not an exemption of the Motor Vehicle Act. 

Submitted by E-mail

I was cycling through Chartwell one afternoon this summer when an SUV coming toward me started angling across the road right at me.

I wasn’t sure what to do but decided to head for the middle of the road.

Then I saw the mailboxes and figured it out.

I looked back and saw an elderly man get out of the SUV to get his mail.

He didn’t even look at me.

I was left with the impression that in his mind I had done the right thing by swerving into the middle of the road.

At the time, I laughed — crazy old people! — but now that I realize it’s become common behaviour, I think next time I’ll stop and make a little show of taking down his licence number.

Tragedy Averted

Several years ago my wasband and I were heading back from a late Autumn trip to the Rockies. We decided to take Highway 3 as it would afford a slower pace of travel and not so many Yahoos as the Coquihalla or Highway 1 would. We were relaxed from a week away from it all and just wanted to meander our way home. We had come out of the Purcell Mountain range in the early evening and saw road construction signs telling us that road markings and roadside lines and barriers had been removed for upcoming construction. As co-pilot and navigator I said I would pay attention and make sure we didn't find ourself going over any cliffs ahead as we entered into the Selkirk range and began to climb. As the elevation gained we started to see snow begin to fall. We slowed down for the conditions but continued to see others flying past us in both directions. The higher we climbed the more the snow fell and soon we were in near whiteout conditions.

I noted a sign telling us there was a pullout viewpoint ahead on our right but didn't mention it as when I looked over at my wasband he seemed to be pretty lost in deep concentration. Suddenly he said "oh sh!%!!!! and started to veer to the right. As we had come around the corner there in the billowing snow facing us from the viewpoint area was a pickup truck with his lights on high beams waiting out the whiteout conditions. If I hadn't shouted NO and steered from the passenger side at that moment we would have gone off the cliff. We inched our way into the viewpoint pull out 20 feet farther up and I got out and had rather stern words with the Pickup driver. 

Submitted by E-Mail

It happens here in Qualicum in my area quite regularly.

Or they park right on the road just before the sharp bend. In order to go around safely one has to come to a complete stop and then ensure there is no oncoming traffic and gun it around the parked car hoping that no one speeds around the corner.

There are ample spots to park nearby but people chose to face the wrong way or block the lane.


You should be able to have a dangerous parking situaiton solved by contacting the police or the road maintenance contractor. They both have the authority to remove a parked vehicle that is interfering with traffic flow.

Submitted by E-Mail

Funny you should mention that.

I did phone the police due to a reoccurring truck and trailer from a landscaping company. I pulled off the road and asked the driver of the truck and trailer if he would please consider parking further away from the corner and a little more off the road as it was very hard to see around his large truck and trailer and in order to pass I had to go around into the oncoming lane of a 90 degree corner. He asked me if I would mind F----ing off and I said that no problem I’d pass on to the police instead. I called the RCMP and they offered to look into it. The next week the same saga except I didn’t stop I just went around. I was a little disappointed that the police didn’t come and ticket this person.

Perhaps it was a busy day and my call was more of an annoyance that a problem for the RCMP that day. I am a supporter of the RCMP and realize it is a hard job but I also think if they let these kinds of things get away, it should be no surprise when there is an accident that it is partially a result of not enforcing regulations and the “little things.”

Follow Up

When the problem recurs, you should contact the police, ask what they did in the first place and tell them that the same thing is happening again.

If you don't persist until the issue is either solved or the police tell you straight out that they aren't going to bother it won't get better. Having said that, I also realize that sometimes it just isn't worth the effort.

5 Years Old?

So 2 different people post about their knowledge of traffic regulations at the age of 5? Thats impressive.Sure takes the sting out of the theory that todays youth are not allowed to be kids anymore,it sounds like UK has it all sewn up, when it comes to early drivers education.

Are you trying to be clever? It isn't working.

So 2 different people post about their knowledge of traffic regulations at the age of 5?

Would it occur to you that some of us might not only have lived in the UK when we were 5 years old, but also revisited the country - and driven there - since?

Speaking for myself, I was almost 15 when my parents (along with myself and my younger brother) emigrated to Canada.  Subsequently, I've revisited the country (where I have other siblings and extended family and friends) on at least half a dozen occasions; and on each of these I've driven around the country (as well as much of France, as it happens) extensively.

The fundamental regulations about parking on either side of the road haven't changed since the first edition of their Highway Code was issued in 1931.  And no, I don't remember that; I sourced the information on Wikipedia.

Smart ass.

Google Ads