Q&A - Yielding to a Left Turning Vehicle

Yield SignQuestion: I have a question about yielding to a left turning vehicle and I'm hoping that you can help. It involves the Old Island Highway and the Lewis Centre parking lot in Courtenay. Through drivers are stopping to allow vehicles in the two way left turn lane to proceed into the parking lot.

I believe this is illegal and when traffic is flowing, drivers are not allowed to stop (unless it is for safety reasons)?!  Can you please shed some light on this topic?

I am also wondering if it is illegal for these drivers to stop traffic, (trying to be nice I'm sure) - would it be something that local police/traffic control would ticket people for?

As I am finding it increasingly difficult to not be annoyed by these drivers - I should likely find another route to work.

Note: It appears that since this article was written the two way left turn at this location has been removed.

Definition of Highway and Intersection

Let's start with a couple of definitions:

"highway" includes

(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,

(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and

(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,

The parking lot is a highway by definition, as is 5th Street.

What is a Highway expands on this.

"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;

5th Street and the parking lot access meet in an intersection.

yielding the right of way text image

Yielding to Left Turning Vehicle

Having set the stage, we can now look at the rule:

Yielding right of way on left turn

174 When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

So, if the left turning driver in the two way left turn lane has stopped and yielded to traffic that is approaching closely, the opposing traffic that is not approaching closely is required to yield and permit the turn.

Yielding may require only slowing, but in some circumstances it may also require stopping.

Learn More

I've discussed this in a more familiar setting (including a link to case law) in this article on left turns.

Unbelievable. Some anonymous (but clearly impatient) person has a problem with common courtesy - when it obstructs their progress, temporarily. They then claim to have researched the issue (before arriving at this most excellent website).

Well, I've never been shy about giving opinions, so here we go.

I am also wondering if it is illegal for these drivers to stop traffic, (trying to be nice I'm sure) - would it be something that local police/traffic control would ticket people for?

Although this is being treated as a 'Yielding to Left Turners' issue, I think that the proper answer to this question will be found under MVA Section 189 - When vehicle stopping prohibited. And I'm not seeing anything there that would provide the police with a reason to ticket those responsible for helping other road users to get where they're going, when they temporarily delay the northbound traffic 'flow'. (Frankly, traffic doesn't ever 'flow' through Courtenay; it lurches from one delay to the next ... ).

But I'm also having difficulty in accepting our site host's view that the situation is an intersection, nevermind the legal definition of a highway. I would make this argument from two different factpoints (they're like viewpoints, only better).

  • Intersections don't have solid lines (yellow or white) running through them. But the 2-Way Left Turn chute in the middle of the roadway there uses a combination of solid and broken yellow lines. So this ain't no intersection. But, if it is ...
  • From the Google picture provided, there isn't any Yield or Stop sign at this exit from the Lewis Centre. There is a Do Not Enter sign, ambiguously placed, which could have a Stop sign on the other side of it (said Do Not Enter sign would appear to prevent any drivers from turning into the parking lot;  in common with the white arrows painted on the roadway, the whole situation is a confusing mess). But - and this is important - if it IS an intersection as our site host claims, then it's an uncontrolled intersection. Which would mean that any driver exiting the parking lot onto the Old Island Highway there should be yielded to, per Section 173(1) and given the right-of-way by the northbound Highway traffic!

As I am finding it increasingly difficult to not be annoyed by these drivers - I should likely find another route to work.

That would be one answer, I guess; without knowing the start and end points of your journey, it's impossible to say whether another route would be any better, quite frankly.

But I will say this. For almost forty years now, I've been a frequent visitor to the Comox/Courtenay area, visiting on business or personal reasons. It's a fabulous area, with great energy; people who live there are lucky indeed. I've seen it 'growing up' and developing; on the one hand, the local population has been expanding exponentially. When last up there, in March, I was amazed by the sheer volume of traffic on all of the arterials; the road structure is insufficient to accommodate the demands being made on it. Plus it's both a tourist destination and a hub for traffic headed to/from other points on the Island. And the fact is, all the traffic engineers seem to have attempted to do is to sort of try and keep up, at which they're not doing so well.

It is frustrating at times, and it's not going to get any better in the near future. So I think the best solution might be to take a deep breath, drop your shoulders, quit following whoever is in front of you so closely (because people being tailgated sometimes take a delight in giving folks in front of them the right-of-way in 'courtesy' situations) and accept things for the way they are (while demanding that the local politicians take the necessary steps to best accommodate everybody's needs, both locals and transients).


This poor fella is simply looking for the most common sense practiced direction.  Instead he’s bombarded with definitions and more definitions and definitions that define definitions.  It’s all so ridiculous and in the end it’s absolutely incomprehensible unless you’re a lawyer in traffic court.  

I’ve had my license since 1975 (you do the math) never been in an accident or caused an accident, zero claims!  Yes, the road users and rules of the road were probably much easier to execute back then, but common sense still is the winner in the end.  In this situation, I’d like to tell the inquirer that I would NOT yield or hold up traffic for a left turner in a designated left turn lane.  I think he’s right to be a tad perturbed because some drivers are looking for brownie points by presenting themselves as “courteous” when in fact they’re creating a hazard.  I encountered many 4-way stoppers who will “wave” me thru before my turn because they think they’re being “courteous.”  I get right upset with those do-gooders because they’ve just screwed up the queue for the others waiting their turn!  I never take their flippy wave thru, I wait my turn.  Much like the left turn over double yellow.  In my day, it was the law, NO crossing a double yellow, ever, unless the line was broken to permit the turn.  Now of course, it’s permissible based on the determination and interpretation of individual drivers as to whether they hinder the flow of traffic or pile up a number of cars behind them. Some drivers think it’s not a bad thing to have 10 cars pile up behind them, while others think 2 is ok and impeding traffic flow.  What’s wrong with the old rule?  It was pretty simple and wasn’t open for interpretation.

As for all these definitions that are written so poorly and left openly for interpretation they defy the rules and order of the road and require a major overhaul.  The KISS principle is still the best.

And CompetentDriving.... you can scale back all those unnecessary “compliments”...... your biased is evident.

As I see it, modern traffic requires that we all should be showing more tolerance and courtesy, and help each other get where we're going. And seriously, along that section of 5th in Courtenay, it won't be more than half a block before you're all jammed at the next delay - so why not help out other drivers, instead of blocking them? I mean, seriously?

I think courtesy is a simple principle, myself. Your opinion may vary.

When a “courtesy” creates a hazard, then it’s not much of a courtesy.

Not sure where the “jammed up” scenario came from.  If it comes to backed up traffic (from the light) to the intended left turner, then the access to make that turn thru stopped traffic should be doable.  Much like you’re not to block an intersection, I would apply the same principle unless you got caught misjudging the space or queue where to stop.  However, my understanding from this fella’s Q is the traffic is flowing not stopped for the light.  In the flowing scenario, I would not halt or impede the traffic behind me so the left turner can turn.  It’s all about WAITING your turn, not taught very well these days.  We’ve breed the more aggressive speed mongers who can not tolerate to be 2nd.  

Lawful to stop and required by law to let these people to use the public roads to achieve their goal of moving from A to B in an orderly fashion and with respect to all other road users! Who would have thought?

Great answer, although I would have concluded it with "Yer hear that?" :)