Q & A - Misbehaviour at the Merge

Q&A ImageQ: I was heading north on Bellevue Road in Errington and stopped at the stop sign at the Alberni Highway to make a left turn to head west toward Coombs. I was in a left turning lane and turning into the left lane of the highway.

There are two lanes westbound from the Parksville direction and through traffic is obliged to keep to the right lane.

There was traffic coming from the Parksville direction but none from Coombs so I safely made my turn into the left lane and accelerated to merge in.

As the right lane appears to merge in towards the left it should have been an easy merge; however there was a white van that accelerated to close the space that I could merge into and literally cut me off. I saw this coming so braked hard to avoid a collision.

My thoughts were that as my lane (the left lane) was straight and along side the centre line that I would have the right of way. My intention was to merge and adjust my speed but didn’t expect that white van to accelerate and tailgate the person in front of him and me to prevent me from merging (and in his mind) unjustly in front of him.

Like I said, I watched him in my mirrors so made sure I braked and gave him the room to cut in.

There is no yield or merge sign there so who has the right of way?

I will always give way to avoid an accident but it seemed reasonable to me that my vehicle had the right of way as the lane continues straight whereas the right lane must cut over and to the left to continue on when the right lane ends.

A: There really is nothing explicit here to tell a driver which lane is ending, as this sign does.

lane ends sign

From your description, I'm going to assume that you used caution and judged your departure from the stop sign in order to accelerate to road speed (70 km/h) and merge with through traffic without causing a disturbance in traffic flow.

It sounds as if you did this, but the other driver decided that he had to be first. He could have shared and left you room to move over, even if you misjudged your merge.

Drivers may not be aware of their obligation when they approach an intersection that has traffic waiting at a stop sign on the cross street:

Entering through highway

175 (1) If a vehicle that is about to enter a through highway has stopped in compliance with section 186,

(a) the driver of the vehicle must yield the right of way to traffic that has entered the intersection on the through highway or is approaching so closely on it that it constitutes an immediate hazard, and

(b) having yielded, the driver may proceed with caution.

(2) If a vehicle is entering a through highway in compliance with subsection (1), traffic approaching the intersection on the highway must yield the right of way to the entering vehicle while it is proceeding into or across the highway.

This could also be an issue of making an unsafe pass on the right:

Passing on right

158 (1) The driver of a vehicle must not cause or permit the vehicle to overtake and pass on the right of another vehicle, except

(b) when on a laned roadway there is one or more than one unobstructed lane on the side of the roadway on which the driver is permitted to drive, or

(2) Despite subsection (1), a driver of a vehicle must not cause the vehicle to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right (a) when the movement cannot be made safely, or

The other driver passing by you on the right ceased to be safe when you were forced to brake and avoid a collision.

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I'm uncertain if the rule exists here outside of stop-sign intersections, but in Russia they have a default yield to the right rule that would apply in this case (making the van have the right of way) and they also apply the same rule to some 3-way intersections that are basically unsigned and people just yield to traffic on their right. Kind of like passing on the on-coming - the passer has no rights and must complete the action quickly and with-out affecting other traffic.

Over here it feels more like a default yield to left is practiced, making your interpretation of the right of way proper. Everybody has a duty to not collide with anyone else, so I think you did the right thing and have the right philosophy.

Interesting to learn that they use that sort of system in Russia; I first encountered something similar when driving in France back in 1984, so I would hazard a guess that it's a common 'default' in the absence of signs establishing right of way (i.e. Stop or Yield) in parts of the Europe. And by the way, them French folks can be pretty damn obnoxious about perceived 'rights' ...

I'm pretty sure that subsequently, they re-wrote the rules (or perhaps bought a big bunch of signs) to eliminate the T-bone crash problem that can result when drivers thinking they were on the 'main route' get slammed into by drivers coming from the right assuming it's actually them that owns the road, eh?

But you can spend all day trying to find Uncontrolled Intersections in the Motor Vehicle Act, without success. Because of all the places you find this, it's under Section 173(1) Yield Signs. Go figure. Section 173(2) is the law that covers intersections where they have actually erected Yield Signs ...

It is ambiguous as there is no lane ending sign or merge sign, but clearly the driver did pass me on the right and did accelerate to close the gap that I was able to merge into.

It would make sense to improve the signage or clarity and possibly prevent an accident here. I’m always of the belief to drive cautiously and give way, but if there would have been someone behind the white van, I may not have been able to stop in time.

Its a story as old as life itself. How many people are genuinly confused to the point where a sign would help them to avoid a crash? Not many I suspect.
In actuality signs and regulations are more necessary for assigning legal liability for damages than to regulate traffic.

If the driver actively went out to block you, they may do so with or with-out a sign. I find that confrontational drivers will do all sorts of illegal actions when they are acting out their frustrations. Its best to take-in as much information on the road as you can, tracking all near-by vehicles and their behaviour, and aim to not get in anyones way.

Sometimes a driver doesn't let me zipper merge, it obvious that they are "hoarding" that spot. I let them go, the driver behind them will usually leave me extra space - I just give them a gentle waive and a nod in the rear-view mirror about the jerk in-front. You are the safest being surrrounded by people who care about you than the people who do not want you there.

All they would need to do is paint a broken white line at that part of the highway. Depending on where they place it, then either the vehicle in the left lane or the vehicle in the right lane, would need to change lanes to continue.

Genius! Easy and elegant, like almost every passing lane on Sea to Sky!

Which way should the line go?
- Left lane continues, right merges
- Right lane continues, left merges

From the road geometry it seems like left is the continuing lane and the right is being interrupted. But from the continuity perspective, I'd much rather be able to "remain" in my continual lane on the "main" highway and not be "precluded" by the left turn-in pockets every few rural blocks. Now that I think about it, I think the left lane shouldn't get the right of way, since they are entering the highway and making those who were driving straight having to give way doesn't seem conventional or fair or practicable in terms of highway cruise-control expectations.