Q&A - Turning Left on an Amber Light

Q&A ImageI would like to have a clarification on how to do a left turn on amber light. At a big intersection with a green light, a vehicle is on a complete stop waiting for a safe gap to do a left turn. The car is positioned to the right of the center line and over a crosswalk but has not yet passed the third line (the stop line as the first line, the inner line of crosswalk as the second line, and the outer line of a crosswalk as the third line).

After a long wait for a safe gap to do a left turn, the light has turned yellow. The driver has then decided to do a left turn safely on a yellow light. Should this be a violation?  I have checked the Motor Vehicle Act and/or the Learn How to Drive Smart book for new drivers and couldn’t find a clear answer.

"intersection" means the area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of the 2 highways that join one another at or approximately at right angles, or the area within which vehicles travelling on different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict;

128 (1) When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety,

So, in your scenario, you have entered the marked crosswalk on the green, and were waiting there when the yellow appeared. Since you have already passed the entry, there is no offence against section 128(1)(a).

You may wish to keep this section in mind though:

189 (1) Except when necessary to avoid conflict with traffic or to comply with the law or the directions of a peace officer or traffic control device, a person must not stop, stand or park a vehicle as follows:

(e) on a crosswalk;

Hi Tim

Thank you for your respond.

Apparently ICBC Point Grey DLC disagrees. Here’s what they told me.

“On May 5, 2011, you attended the Point Grey Driver Licensing Centre for your Class 5 road test, and unfortunately did not successfully qualify.  Mr. Wong advised me a violation occurred at the intersection of King Edward Avenue and Granville StreetWhile attempting to make a left turn,you had come to a full stop on the pedestrian lines (prior to the cross walk) and once the light turned to amber, you proceeded with your left turn.  Under those circumstances you were required to remain where you were as you had not yet established your vehicle in the intersection.  If you were already in the intersection, you would have had the right of way and would be allowed to complete your left turn.  This manoeuvre resulted in a violation and reason for disqualifying or failure of the road test.” –ICBC Customer Relation.

I did well except for the left turn confusion. I should have asked the instructor his preferences on turns. I will definitely bring a copy of Motor Vehicle Act handy on my next road test.

Thank you.

Here's where the problem lies. ICBC decides what constitutes a pass or fail during a driving test. They have decided to apply the strict definition of whether you are in an intersection or not. I did include the definition of intersection for you.

My thoughts were focused on whether you would receive a ticket for a yellow light violation or not in the circumstances that you described. I stand by my answer within the confines of ticket/no ticket.

Apparently ICBC wants you to fully enter the intersection, which would mean passing the curb lines of the cross street that you were facing.

If you are ever called in for a road test, the smartest thing that one can do is spend a bit of money preparing by taking some instruction at a driving school. They will find the difficulties first and help you overcome them before you take the test.

Just noticed this one.

What drivers need to be aware of, is that traffic lights do NOT control vehicles that are IN an intersection; doesn't matter if they're amber, green, red or purple.

Traffic lights control vehicles APPROACHING an intersection.  Once you're in it (and that simply means that at least a reasonable portion of your car has passed the last crosswalk line - not fully in it, or it would be virtually impossible to complete a right turn properly, or a left turn into a one-way street) then the light becomes irrelevant.

Take this perspective, maybe - if you're the driver on the intersecting street, who has just been shown a fresh green light, are you going to say to yourself 'that driver on the cross street is obviously in the intersection, so I can't enter it yet' or are you going to decide that 'that driver hasn't commited to finishing what he started, and is going to stay there out of my path, if I now proceed'.

From a Driver Examiner point of view though, if you're marking a Road Test, it's pretty simple.  If the applicant has entered the crosswalk, but not properly entered the intersection, and the light then turns amber - then a decision to proceed is a Violation and this results in an automatic fail.

It's also worth keeping in mind that in BC, you cannot legally reverse into, through, or out of, an intersection or crosswalk.

So don't put yourself in that position in the first place, whether you're turning right or left, and without regard for whether you're driving on your Road Test or in real life.

If you can't get at least the front third of your car clearly into the intersection (i.e. beyond the last crosswalk line) while the light is green - and probably the only thing that can prevent this is that there's another vehicle in front of you already - then don't even think about proceeding past the white stop line that precedes the crosswalk lines, because the chances are that you'll regret it.

On the same subject, however, it's worth keeping in mind that some large intersections can accommodate several vehicles, all able to properly in whole or significant part to enter the intersection and escape the control of the traffic light; at which time they only need to wait for the oncoming/opposing traffic and pedestrians to clear before finishing their maneuver.  Even if the light turns amber, red, or whatever.  After all, even if the drivers on the cross street now face a bright shiny green light, they're not allowed to enter the intersection unless it's clear.

On your Road Test, do keep in mind that if the situation has reached the point where you ought to be getting out of there (because the conflicts mentioned no longer exist), and you don't do so expediently, the DE may find it necessary to urgently tell you to 'go, get out of here' ... in which case, they have taken verbal control; this is also an automatic fail.

You may not realize this, but when you're on your Road Test, one of the fundamental determinations that is being made is whether you have the ability and judgment to drive a car by yourself, unaided - legally, and safely.