Turning Left Over Solid Lines

Left Turn Over Double Solid LineProbably one of the most dangerous things that we do as drivers is to make a left turn. As we sit in traffic waiting for a large enough gap between oncoming vehicles we risk being hit from behind, the most common collision type on our roads. When we do turn, we present the sides of our vehicle to other traffic which is the most vulnerable position to be in.

Left turns also place a heavy cognitive demand on the driver. There are many potential conflicts to identify and resolve in order to turn left safely. Common errors include failing to signal properly, misjudging the speed of oncoming traffic, turning without a complete sight picture and incorrectly estimating the time it will take to complete the turn.

With this in mind, lets take a look at whether you can turn left in the middle of the block legally and why you might choose not to even when the turn is legal.

Many drivers have an incomplete idea of what the lines on the road really mean and what the law requires. The basic intent is that regardless of what kind of yellow line is painted on the highway, drivers are required to stay to the right of it.

Even a single broken yellow line means stay to the right, except when you are safely overtaking another vehicle on the left.

I can hear the muttering starting now. What? That's not right! It is correct, but it is not complete. Once we are past the basic intent there are special circumstances where a driver is allowed to cross yellow lines if the situation permits it.

The double solid yellow line is even more strict. A driver must keep to the right of it at all times, with one exception, and that is when you are entering or leaving the highway. Even then you must do so safely and not unreasonably interfere with other traffic.

What is unreasonable interference? That's a good question, and one where there is no simple answer. Each situation must be looked at individually depending on the circumstances.

The ICBC manual Learn to Drive Smart cautions us on page 52 that most drivers expect others to turn left at intersections. When traffic is heavy this is good advice. Instead of turning left mid block, turn left at the next intersection and then make right turns to arrive at your destination instead. Trading a small inconvenience for safety might be one of the best deals you could make.

If you are one of few vehicles on the road and the vehicle behind must wait for a few seconds perhaps this isn't unreasonable.

To sum up, it is not illegal to turn left over yellow lines in all cases, but there may be few opportunities to do so legally and safely.

Comments

I often wonder ...

... why so many people believe that you can't turn left across solid lines, provided it can be done without unreasonably affecting other traffic.

After all, those various combinations of broken and solid white lines are there to control traffic movement in the same direction, while the combinations of broken and solid yellow lines are there to control traffic movement in opposite directions.

Traffic laws in BC and most other jurisdictions were created for two fundamental reasons - to help prevent collisions, and to promote traffic flow.  That's why Section 156 is there in the MVA, it's only logical.

Highway

1/ What is deemed a highway in British Columbia? 2/ The act says you may make a left turn to enter a "driveway", crossing either a single or double yellow line. What constitutes a "driveway"? Does a place of business entrance qualify as a "driveway"? 

The act I believe seems subject to interpretation, if you impede traffic while waiting to make that left turn it's a tickatable offense no? If the line is broken you could stay there all day, sarcasm, legally no?

Motor Vehicle Act - Definition

'Highway' is pretty broadly defined:

"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,

but does not include an industrial road;

Haven't found an MVA definition for 'Driveway', yet.

The act I believe seems subject to interpretation, if you impede traffic while waiting to make that left turn it's a tickatable offense no?

It's dependent on one's definition of 'unreasonable', which seems logical and, uh, reasonable to me.

Suspension of sections 151 and 155

156 If the driver of a vehicle is causing the vehicle to enter or leave a highway and the driver has ascertained that he or she might do so with safety and does so without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle, the provisions of sections 151 and 155 are suspended with respect to the driver while the vehicle is entering or leaving the highway.

Intent and Purpose

I'm going to give a hint of my age here, but when I wrote my test, I very clearly recall that a vehicle was to NEVER cross a double yellow UNLESS the lines were broken.  No passing, no turning, no crossing!  Then when I was an auxiliary with RCMP this infraction become a discussion with my mentor and it is here where I learned that that black/white rule had been altered over the years to the state it is today (permissible without impeding traffic) because some judge's decision interpreted the intent and purpose of the original rule to be more open to interpretation to the driver intended to cross that double yellow.  Of course now we're into the definition of "impeding" to be the rationale of the driver.  Well, your definition is going to be much more liberal than mine if you're executing that crossing a double yellow.  What was once a very black/white rule and it's intent and purpose was obvious has now become another mess and mayhem of a drivers "right" to disregard a rule that was meant to provide safety/security to themselves and other road users.  Hence the result of when a system is put into disrepute.  

Of a double solid yellow?

The intent, and purpose, of a double solid yellow line is to prevent overtaking by using any of the oncoming lanes.

So if there's nothing oncoming, no vehicles following close behind you, and no pedestrian conflict pending ... and you want to head to the gas station on the other side of the road, or maybe your own driveway in some instances ... why shouldn't you, if you signal it and are careful not to affect anybody else?

It's the same rationale that allows drivers to turn right - or sometimes left - on a red. It keeps things moving, so long as there's no conflict.

No Conflict!

Ahhhh, the operative solution to executing ANY maneuver.  Unfortunately the scenario presented is the "perfect" one, decided by drivers who have no concept of conflict and it becomes their interpretation of "conflict" and it's usually because they have a selfish, entitled outlook.  The flow of traffic is actually maintained by NOT turning left and especially at double yellow so that argument is unsubstantiated.  And don't we all know, the most dangerous maneuver on the roads are left turns.  The most "conflicted."  There are many bad drivers out there today then there was 40+ years ago and the traffic has multiplied so you would think being stricter and more "black/white" with the rules would not only make things clearer for those who are challenged for driving skills, but would keep the rest of us road users in a safer position.  I call it the KISP.... Keep It Simple Princple ... There's a thought.  

'No concept of conflict' ?

Let's think about this.

Unfortunately the scenario presented is the "perfect" one, decided by drivers who have no concept of conflict and it becomes their interpretation of "conflict" and it's usually because they have a selfish, entitled outlook.

Certainly, there are far too many drivers who drive without any regard for the rules, or for other drivers. And yes, this could include some driver making a left across a solid line - could be a solid white line, a single solid yellow, or a double solid yellow. But Section 156 deliberately covers this.

Heck, I've been living in the same house with the same single solid yellow down the middle of the road for more than twenty years. And, all of us who live here always reverse into the driveway, but later when we leave, we then turn right or left in a safe manner. No conflict(s), that's how it is. It doesn't matter what colour the line is, or whether it's spaced or solid, quite frankly. And doing this safely is already covered by othr MVA requirements.

The flow of traffic is actually maintained by NOT turning left and especially at double yellow so that argument is unsubstantiated.

But if the traffic is flowing, then Section 156 does NOT allow you to just jam on the brakes and then turn across this traffic, no doubt unreasonably affecting the traffic coming up behind you.

Suspension of sections 151 and 155

156 If the driver of a vehicle is causing the vehicle to enter or leave a highway and the driver has ascertained that he or she might do so with safety and does so without unreasonably affecting the travel of another vehicle, the provisions of sections 151 and 155 are suspended with respect to the driver while the vehicle is entering or leaving the highway.

Meanwhile, consider this please:

And don't we all know, the most dangerous maneuver on the roads are left turns.

No argument here! But where do motorists usually make those left turns? At intersections, or in the middle of the block?

Obviously, it's at intersections. And if there's a collision, it's likely to cause a lot of damage and potential injury. Why do so many left turn crashes occur at intersections? Usually, it's because the driver doesn't see - until it's too late - the vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian that they end up colliding with. Too much going on, mentally, and limited vision of what's happening.

Traffic engineers know this. Their job isn't to make everyone obey the rules, their job is to design roads that minimize collisions whilst also maintaining a traffic flow for all road users.

But, drivers need to make left turns sometimes. In mid-block situations with lots of businesses on either side, and given the necessary road width, they'll paint a double-left turn lane in the middle of the road. It keeps traffic flowing, and simplifies things for left-turning drivers.

Meanwhile, at intersections (where the serious crashes usually happen) they will design left-turn chutes (they get the left-turners out of the way, whilst also maintaining the through flow). Also, and serendipitously, traffic engineers learned many years ago that using a left-turn chute vastly improved the vision of the left-turner, a wonderful benefit. (For lower mainland drivers, it's noteworthy that left-turn chutes have recently been created on Hastings at Gilmore in Burnaby, and on Lonsdale at 13th St in North Van just in the last while). Oftentimes, these same engineers use protected green arrow phases on a traffic light. Sometimes, they even do both, particularly in retirement communities or high-crash locations. 

Traffic engineers actually do try to keep it as simple as possible. They, along with the politicians who write these rules (and Section 156 has existed for at least half a century) also have the good sense to realize that if someone wants to access the gas station on the other side of the road, and it won't affect anybody else, then there's no good reason to try to prevent it. In fact, unless they put a physical barrier down the middle of the road, they can't.

One thing's for sure. Double solid yellow lines were designed to prevent someone from passing the driver ahead, if that involves using an oncoming lane to do so. They have never had anything to do with making a left turn.

I'm editing here with an extra bit. Notice the image at the top of the article? It's wrong, for BC at least. Because if you have multi-lane traffic, then you can't pass vehicles ahead anyway (except by going around them on their right), which makes the double-solid yellow line redundant.

Driving on laned roadway

151  A driver who is driving a vehicle on a laned roadway

(f) must not pass a vehicle on the left if that action necessitates driving on that part of the highway designated for travel in the opposite direction,

So a single solid yellow line would not only suffice, but usefully, and safely, would provide greater lane width for everyone. 

Left turns at intersections ..

Are a far cry from LEFT TURNS CROSSING A DOUBLE YELLOW!  Two very different executions of what remains the most conflicted and dangerous maneuver on the roads.  To rebuff the intersection arguement, that's a perfect example why Roundabouts should be engineered into all intersections.  It's a small number of drivers who are unable to execute a roundabout in the their intended purpose, but roundabouts are still the SAFEST and efficient execution of an intersection.

Getting back to that double yellow and it's intent and purpose along with KISP principle, what used to be a very clear, concise rule (no CROSSING) has been made into a dangerous and inconsistent application that was INTENDED to avoid danger and putting others at serious risk because now a once black/white rule is turned into shades of grey based on a drivers "interpretation" of impeding the flow of traffic.  Bad decision.  There are absolutely no good scenarios of drivers crossing or passing a double yellow.... period!  Take the time and effort to get to your destination without crossing the double yellow... three rights make a left.  

Lines on the roadway have specific meanings.

And those meanings legally control laned traffic.

When it's a solid white line, changing lanes is not allowed.

When it's a solid yellow line, passing the vehicle ahead (using the opposing lane to do so) is discouraged.

When it's a double-solid yellow line, passing the vehicle ahead (using the opposing lane to do so) is illegal.

Meanwhile, actually crossing a solid line (to access, or leave, the highway at a place that isn't an intersection - i.e. mid-block) is not a difficulty. Nor is it inherently dangerous, when it doesn't affect any other road user.

Traffic Engineers can only ever prevent crossing solid lines (something they would typically do only as a result of previous collisions or conflicts) by using a solid barrier, such as a concrete median.

So inasmuch as drivers are almost inevitably going to do this - i.e. cross some kind of solid line, perhaps to access or exit a gas station, which will almost always be on a corner, with several access/egress points - then unless the crash rate due to this action of turning onto/from the adjacent roadways/highways there justifies it, then there's no point in them creating new physical barriers to prevent it.

Logically, at this point, that's where the legality of such a maneuver becomes paramount. We can't just have people turning where they want, when they want, without consideration for how their behaviour affects other road users. If there's a crash, or an unnecessary holdup of traffic, caused by the driver who is crossing this/these solid lines, then blame must be apportioned. Hence, Section 156.

Left turns at intersections are a far cry from LEFT TURNS CROSSING A DOUBLE YELLOW!

If left turns in mid-block (where the driver crosses some kind of solid line) were a particular problem, then they would have created a law to make them illegal.

Two very different executions of what remains the most conflicted and dangerous maneuver on the roads.

What do you mean, 'very different'? It's a left turn. Into a driveway, or into another roadway. 'Conflicted and dangerous'? Yes, potentially - but particularly at an intersection, which is where the absolute majority of left turn crashes occur.

To rebuff the intersection arguement, that's a perfect example why Roundabouts should be engineered into all intersections.  It's a small number of drivers who are unable to execute a roundabout in the their intended purpose, but roundabouts are still the SAFEST and efficient execution of an intersection.

It would be wonderful if we could engineer roundabouts into all intersections. In many cases, small traffic circles have replaced 2-Way stops in residential neighbourhoods, and on busier connectors they have been able to find the room to engineer small Roundabouts with Yield signs and marked crosswalks and everything.

However, creating big (i.e. multi-lane) roundabouts requires a bit of real estate. There's a couple of them on West 16th in Vancouver, here's a Google Street View of one.

Compare that Google Earth image to something like Granville & Georgia in Vancouver.

Can you imagine how many billions of dollars would have to be spent, in order to destroy all the buildings closely adjacent to both neighbourhood and residential properties, everywhere in this province, so that all those traffic light controlled intersections could be replaced with multiple-lane Roundabouts?

Getting back to that double yellow and it's intent and purpose along with KISP principle, what used to be a very clear, concise rule (no CROSSING) has been made into a dangerous and inconsistent application that was INTENDED to avoid danger and putting others at serious risk because now a once black/white rule is turned into shades of grey based on a drivers "interpretation" of impeding the flow of traffic.  Bad decision.

What do you mean, a 'clear, concise rule'? There is no such rule and there has never been such a rule. When I went to Driver's Ed back in 1971, the Section in the Motor Vehicle Act regarding Driving in Laned Traffic always had an addendum (i.e. Section 156, in the current version) that allowed crossing solid lines so long as it didn't get in the way of other road users.There are absolutely no good scenarios of drivers crossing or passing a double yellow.... period!

Well actually, many have actually survived passing on a double yellow without injury or damage. But that's not the point - it's sure as hell a stupid maneuver, never mind illegal. But crossing it, to access some place on the other side of the road? Frankly, it's not a problem, unless the driver is blind, distracted, stupid, or suicidal.

Take the time and effort to get to your destination without crossing the double yellow... three rights make a left.

Darn right! When I used to teach teenagers in the Vancouver downtown core, I would make this point, in terms of obeying the rules at many intersections. But it's utterly ridiculous to expect every driver, every day, every place, to always apply this idea of never turning left, in terms of getting to their destination.

But hey, maybe there's something I'm not understanding here. If so, please explain.

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