Q&A - Changing Lanes In an Intersection

Q&A ImageToday I was almost in a traffic collision. I was turning right and people across the intersection were turning left. The street we were turning onto had two lanes either side of the centre. I assumed all of the people turning left would end their turn in the left-most lane because they were turning out of the only left turn lane and I was taught you shouldn't change langes in an interection.

One of the vehicles turning left ended his turn in the right lane and as I was turning right into that lane we nearly collided. Now I've been told after the fact that this is just a recommendation that ICBC gives and that there is no law against changing lanes in an intersection. I think people should be warned about this in the driving training booklet.

If we had collided, would I have been at fault or would he have been at fault, legally? Does it make a difference if he is turning on a green arrow or not?

It is not illegal to change lanes in an intersection here in B.C. but a defensive driver will change lanes well prior to an intersection and will wait until well past to changes lanes as well. Intersections are dangerous places and following a driving practice that avoids confusion here is not only smart, it is courteous to other drivers.

I have written about changing lanes in an intersection on this site already.

Turning left at an intersection where there are multiple lanes for the same direction of travel is something that many drivers in B.C. do poorly as well. You can learn about doing this properly in the article on left turns at an intersection. Once the left turn driver has turned into the proper lane they must make a lane change if they wish to use the curb lane. As you will see in the article on changing lanes, the driver changing lanes must not affect the travel of any other vehicle, which would include a vehice that is turning right into the adjacent lane.

These rules must be followed regardless of whether there is an advance arrow for either driver.

I don't have an example of case law specific to this situation, but you may find other left turning cases will give you some idea how the court will assess liability if a collision does occur.

You can’t cross a solid white line, so coming up to intersections you’ll notice they change from broken to solid, so yes it is illegal 

Dont do it. Its dangerous.

I was taught that it wouldve of been the person who drifts fault. That is, the person who was turning left beginning the manuveur in the furthest left lane and ending the manuveur in the lane to its right, or the next lane over, commonly known as a 'drift', carries the fault. You have a reasonable expectation that the other driver will operate their vehicle with a regard for your presence and in a manner that does not recklessly endanger others.

Too many people drive with the attitude that it is the other drivers responsibilties to keep an eye out for them and and stay out of their way when in reality, it is the person whose drivings responsibilty to keep an eye out for what may be in their way, or anticipate what may get in their way, and manuver their vehicle so that it doesnt.

You are making a legal right turn from the far right lane of one road to the far right lane of another. It is your responsibilty to not impede vehicles or get in their way that are currently occupying that lane. It is not your responsibilty to correctly guess that the car starting a manuveur in one lane will drift into yours so as to impede you. If there is a collision, the drifter is to blame. Its no different than someone who drifts over the line into the next lane going in a straight line without looking, shoulder checking, or signaling. Although it is twice as deadly. Its a bad idea.

... it is a lane choice, made by the driver entering the new road.

This whole idea that lanes always somehow 'continue', and that there will therefore be a 'correct' lane and an 'incorrect' lane to complete the turn in, is not a legal concept, so far as I'm concerned (based on the Motor Vehicle Act Section 165). Not unless they paint those little white dots around the corner to guide you, as with multi-lane turns. It's also not a real life concept. One roadway might have multiple lanes, whilst the new roadway could be quite different in terms of what lines are painted there (or not). Conversely, the driver turning from some minor road (just one lane in each direction) into a major arterial (multiple lanes in each direction) cannot conceivably continue in the 'same lane' as he was in before the turn.

That said, the driver turning right must do so as close as practicable to the curb or road edge (so obviously isn't allowed to 'go wide' into the further lane to complete the turn) but the driver turning left is merely required to complete the turn somewhere to the right of the centre line. In real life, this means that the right turner will have to complete his turn in the right lane (but not the bike lane, or the area marked for parking cars parallel to the curb). But, it is sufficient for the left turner to turn into any lane right of the road centre on a 2-Way street. Only a driver turning left either from or into a 1-Way street - per part 3 of that section - is obliged to be in the leftmost lane at the commencement and completion of a left turn. (I would like to see somebody try and do that in a Peterbilt pulling a 53' trailer, sometime, but I digress.)

Let's consider ICBC Road Tests, and the rules and expectations that they apply to these. They cannot contradict the Motor Vehicle Act, obviously, but that's not their only consideration. For the driver undergoing their first driving test in BC, in order to obtain their Class 5 or 7 license (same thing for Class 6 actually), the requirement for a left turn is to end up in the leftmost lane. This is not based on the MVA, but on the 'Learn to Drive Smart' guide. Specifically, as diagrammed in Chapter 4 (where they use the term 'Lane Tracking' which is also nonsense, legally speaking, though a good concept for aiming the vehicle out of the turn). In this happy world, there are always two lanes in each direction (though no room is left for parked cars, strangely) and all drivers always turn into the closest lane. On that test, if a driver turns left in a drifting turn that finishes in the right lane, they will get demerits for an 'unsignalled/unsafe lane change'. If they turn left in a manner that leads to them exiting in a further lane than the one beside the centre line, they will get demerits for 'wrong lane'. In eithr case, it's not an automatic fail, by any means. If they turn left in a manner that requires other road users (right turning vehicles facing them, oncoming traffic facing them, or pedestrians using the crosswalk on their left) to yield the space, they will fail that test (the Driver Examiner might mark it as a Violation or a Dangerous Action, either way the result is the same).

I must reiterate, these test markings are dependent on the basic driving guide for new licensees, driving cars (but not limos) or motorcycles. They are not based strictly on the MVA. Legally, any of these drivers could choose a further lane.

So now we have to consider the ICBC Road Test rules and expectations that apply to Class 4, 3, 2 & 1. And in the 'Driving Commercial Vehicles' guide, in Chapter 3 on Basic Driving Skills it states "If you're turning into a multi-lane street, the size of your commercial vehicle may make it difficult to turn into the leftmost lane. Instead, you may choose to turn into a lane to the right. Be sure it's safe and available to you." And the criteria for the Driver Examiner regarding Left Turns / Ends in Wrong Lane specifically states that "When turning left, C1 - 4 may end in any available lane including the farthest right hand lane." Ending in the lane, for DE's, means the front of the vehicle turning into that lane. Perfectly legal, and decidedly not a lane change in an intersection, just what I call a 'deep' lane selection (perhaps in anticipation of a pending right turn), you're on a new roadway now.

Dont do it. Its dangerous.

Let's think about this. Firstly, the driver who chooses to turn right simultaneously to the oncoming left turner cannot assume that there's no conflict pending; not the way people drive these days. So turning at the exact same time is the antithesis of defensive driving. You should always turn in a way that maximizes your space, and isn't dependent on others doing the right thing; they often don't.

But meanwhile, how the heck is it that municipal and tour buses throughout this province (probably several dozen of them while you've been reading this) have somehow managed to make safe left turns into the further lane? No screeching metal, no shattered windows.

And the answer of course is that they drive according to Section 174. Here you go:

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.

Which is what everybody should be doing all of the time. Just like the bus drivers and other professionals.