Q&A - At Qualicum Beach's Only Traffic Light

Q&A ImageThe issue is our only traffic light up town by Qualicum Foods.

Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the rules of the road at intersections, but I thought if someone was at the intersection waiting to turn left that you (if you are approaching behind them) should let them make their turn and not pass on the right and travel through the intersection cutting off vehicles that may be turning left from the other direction?

I believe you are allowed to make a right turn as there is a lane for that purpose, but not enter into the right turn lane to save a few seconds to travel straight through.

Can you please refresh me on this law?

I drove through the intersection and found that it is still the same as what you referenced on Google Street View.

It seems to me that the right lane past the front of Qualicum Foods is really intended for a right turn at Memorial and the left lane lines up neatly for through traffic. Perhaps the Town of Qualicum Beach should provide direction to drivers in the form of lane use markings and signs. Until then, it is really up to the drivers to decide how to proceed safely through the intersection and merge from two lanes on one side to one lane on the other.

According to ICBC crash mapping for Qualicum Beach, this intersection has the fourth highest crash rate in town, tallying 18 reported crashes from 2011 to 2015. It jumps up one place when you limit the report to casualty causing crashes and eliminate property damage only incidents, although the new total is 6 reported crashes or about one a year.


As there is a lane there for use, a driver may choose to pass a left turn vehicle on the right legally, as long as they do it safely.


I do have an article on my site that deals with left turns and yielding:


I've invited the Town to provide feedback.

That's an engineering gaffe.

For the longest time I was under the impression that switching lanes through intersection was not allowed, so i avoided doing so. But recently I've heard that that has changed. And in this case I can't see how a vehicle could avoid switching lanes through the intersection.

Can drivers switch lanes in intersections lawfully?

When training wannabe Driving Instructors, as I did for some time back in the 90's, something I would always emphasize is that you can't just tell people 'this is right' or 'this is wrong' unless you can provide a reason. When you do this, you then give them ownership of the rationale, you motivate them to use the methods or practices that you've taught them.

If you've done your job properly as an instructor, your students will want to signal their lane changes properly, they will want to reverse into parking stalls, they will want to stop behind the stop line, etc long after they've passed their test and are driving solo.

So when I see this statement from our highly esteemed site host:

It has never been illegal to change lanes in an intersection in B.C. to my knowledge. It is dangerous and bad practice that a defensive driver will avoid doing however.

Well, I leap out of my chair, tearing my hair out, or like that. Why? Because no rationale has been given for the statement, no justification - which is not to say it may not be true much of the time; it just doesn't encourage the driver to wisely assess when this manuever may or may not be a wise decision.

Hey, if you're changing lanes from left lane to right lane just when a vehicle ahead is about to pull out of  a driveway on the right, that's an unsafe location even though between intersections. Likewise, if you're changing lanes from right lane to left lane, just when a vehicle is about to enter traffic from a parking lot on the left, to join your stream.

If you're in an outside lane of the 2nd Narrows (Ironworker's Memorial) Bridge, and change to centre lane just at the same time that another driver in the other outside lane is signalling (or not) that they're about to change to that same centre lane, then that's an unsafe location.

And so on.

Please, take a moment to read this post in that other thread.

Did you follow the link in your quote and read it? I was pretty sure that I mentioned my rationale in the article.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

There were several links ... there may be a missing link ... wouldn't want to hurt you, eh? 

In reply to by CompetentDrivingBC

There's only one link in your quote above and it leads to an article that says:

Keeping in mind that more than 50% of collisions in British Columbia occur in intersections, it is wise to keep vehicle movements there uncomplicated. This is why defensive driving prohibits making a lane change within the intersection. The choice removes one element of uncertainty for other drivers and that creates a safer driving environment.

Don't you think that is rationale for my statement?

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

Don't you think that is rationale for my statement?

Oh hell, yeah! Probably I haven't been articulating my angle on things so well. Sometimes I can be pedantic. No, really!

Where I was going with my somewhat lengthy comparison between the imaginary siblings Bob (who sometimes switches lanes impulsively just before intersections) and his sister Jane (who sometimes switches lanes completely safely within intersections) is the rationale behind the thinking that results in the action. Carmen (one of the instructors I trained, many years ago now) did a good job of articulating the various points visually on her blog because she's way better at that stuff so I just use a lot of words.

But words is what it's about, in some ways.

This is why defensive driving prohibits making a lane change within the intersection.

No, defensive driving doesn't prohibit anything. Laws prohibit, or not. But defensive driving encourages and promotes the best use of visibility for the driver and space for the vehicle. And I really don't mean to berate the point, but when you say this:

Keeping in mind that more than 50% of collisions in British Columbia occur in intersections, it is wise to keep vehicle movements there uncomplicated.

Well I think you'll agree that those collisions that occurred IN those intersections were, very often, the result of the action that took place BEFORE the intersection. The decision to turn right on red, even without properly considering the consequence. Or the decision to proceed from a Stop Sign without adequately checking the cross traffic. The decision to switch lanes suddenly before the intersection (due to the vehicle ahead slowing suddenly, allowing the pedestrian to cross in front of them - into the path of the car that switched lanes, and hits them; in this case, the horribly injured pedestrian may land in the intersection, but they weren't in it beforehand).

Many intersection-related collisions occur prior to intersections - rear enders come immediately to mind.

Other intersection-related collisions do actually occur in intersections - right of way errors come immediately to mind; particularly with turning vehicles.

And separating hazards as a matter of habit - such as avoiding making lane changes in, or anywhere near, intersections - is a good idea. But it doesn't mean that making lane changes in an intersection, where the driver has properly understood the potential conflicts and checked for them, is a bad practice.

As for that intersection in Qualicum? Every time I go through there (and it's been quite often over the years) I've thought 'well that's just weird, they should fix it'. Should they fix it?

According to ICBC crash mapping for Qualicum Beach, this intersection has the fourth highest crash rate in town, tallying 18 reported crashes from 2011 to 2015.

I can't help but think, this is probably a pretty low crash rate for an intersection; particularly in a town that gets flooded with tourists from out of town annually - four or five a year, I guess. And how many of those were caused by the action of drivers changing lanes within the intersection?

Still, the left side of my brain says they should provide better mandatory control over what a driver should do from where they're at as they approach the intersection, in order to reduce possible confusion. Even if the right side of my brain says that if it ain't really broken, priority should be given to fixing the intersections in that town with a higher collision rate, first.